By Jim Laise - firstname.lastname@example.org
STEPHENS CITY -- On Thursday night, Shenandoah Valley Christian Academy's girls basketball team drug its feet through an eight-point defeat at Class AAA Musselman (W.Va.).
On Friday night, the two-time defending state champion Patriots (17-6) picked up the pace in the semifinal game of the Virginia Association of Christian Athletes North Region to dominate Grace Christian Academy 56-22. SVCA will face Stuart Hall today in the 3:30 p.m. championship round at the SVCA gymnasium.
In dropping Grace, SVCA allowed just one basket in the first half after playing an away game the night before.
"We drug our feet on defense and we were slow to get to the ball," said SVCA's Samantha Yarnell (15 points), who with teammates Hannah McGann (game-high 16) and Grace Snyder (11) scored in double figures.
"I think the thing the girls did best tonight was move their feet," SVCA coach Lauren Culler. "We were on them tonight about that, and I think it paid off."
Grace's first basket by Katie Quarles occurred with 3:36 showing in the first quarter, but by that time the Patriots already had built an 8-2 lead.
With Samantha Yarnell scoring eight points, SVCA raced out to a 22-2 lead in the first quarter and was on top 29-4 at the half. That latter score was helped by five points in the second quarter by McGann.
"We're lucky that we have four girls (Yarnall, Snyder, McGann and Carol Bartholomew) who can score any night, so if one of them is being shut out, somebody can pick up the pace," said Culler.
Bartholomew score eight points and, as a dominating inside force, made Grace Christian reluctant to drive the ball to the rim.
After trailing 36-4 with 5:27 showing in the third quarter, Grace scored seven straight points for a 36-11 score, but Yarnell scored six of the Patriots' next 14 points as SVCA outscored the visitors by 12 points to own a 50-13 third-quarter lead.
SVCA expanded that advantage to an even 40 with 4:37 to go.
Grace Christian's Cora Bush drilled three 3-pointers in the second half to finish with a team-leading nine points.
Culler stocked this year's regular-season schedule with Musselman, Jefferson and Washington, all 3A schools from West Virginia, along with Dominion, Millbrook and James Wood.
The coach hopes the collection of public schools will prepare SVCA for the region, state and National Association of Christian Schools post-season tournaments.
"We weren't tired at all tonight. We were all pumped up because we want another chance at states," said Yarnall.