By Tommy Keeler Jr.
WOODSTOCK -- Katelyn Poston knew it was going to be a good night during warm-ups.
The Central senior point guard felt good about her shot and it showed early in the game. As the game went on she got plenty of help from her teammates to take the Falcons one step closer to a state berth.
Central led from start to finish in a 70-57 victory over James Monroe on Monday night in the 3A East Region girls basketball quarterfinals.
""It's an overwhelming, amazing feeling," said Poston, Central's point guard. "It's the furthest we've been able to make it in such a long time. I'm surrounded with such a great group of girls. I wouldn't want to be further with anybody else."
The Falcons will play at John Marshall on Wednesday in the regional semifinals, with a Class 3A state berth on the line.
It's the first time Central has been one of the last eight teams left in its classification since the 1996-97 season, when they won the Group A state title.
Poston scored 13 of her game-high 30 points in the first period to help give Central a 19-9 lead.
"In warm-ups I was feeling my shot," Poston said. "So I went ahead and took advantage of that in the beginning."
Poston hit three 3-pointers in the first period, including one at the buzzer from around 25 feet.
The Yellow Jackets made a run, and kept things close throughout the game. James Monroe used an 11-6 run to cut the lead to 34-30 at the half.
Central (18-8) came out strong in the third period, and re-established a double-digit lead with an 11-6 run of its own. Five different players scored during the spurt.
While the offense was clicking, Central's defense was just as strong. The Falcons held the Yellow Jackets to only four points in the first six minutes of the third period.
"We really sat down and took some pride in our defense at that point," Central coach Mallory Skarupa said.
The Falcons did a solid job all night on James Monroe leading scorer Monica Dit. The 6-foot-3 sophomore center finished with 15 points, but seven of those came in the fourth period.
Central freshman Tamra Scott was defending her most of the game, but also got help from Brooklyn Pumphrey and Meredith Phillips.
The Yellow Jackets (9-10) were able to cut the lead to 47-42 after three periods. However, Phillips and Mary Wakeman combined to score 16 points in the fourth period.
Phillips, who is coming back from an anterior cruciate ligament tear in the offseason, finished with a season-high 18 points to go with seven rebounds.
"In the fourth quarter, I knew they were getting in the four, five-point range," Phillips said of how close the game was becoming. "So we knew we had to raise the score up, and we also had to play good defense. So I knew I had to go and drive in the middle to get fouls, so we fouled out some of their players, which helped us, too."
The Yellow Jackets pulled within three at 58-55 with 3:08 left in the game. Phillips then scored all the Central points during a 9-1 run over the next 1:31 of the game.
She hit three free throws, sank a jumper and scored inside the paint off nice assists from Poston and Sydney Plum to help give Central a 66-57 lead with 1:07 left in the game.
Phillips said she is playing her best basketball now.
"I need to prove myself coming back off an injury," Phillips said. "So I think this time of the year I've been playing a lot better, because it's getting stronger."
Wakeman and Plum combined for three free throws in the final minute to seal the win for Central.
Brittany Williams led the Yellow Jackets with 20 points, while Danielle Bumbrey added 10.
Poston had 12 rebounds, three assists and three steals to go with her points. Tamra Scott had five points and 18 rebounds, and Wakeman had 11 points, three steals and three assists.
The Falcons have been on a roll for the last week, playing together as a team and are now closing in on reaching the state tournament.
"I definitely think we did an amazing job of overcoming a lot of our obstacles, and we came through playing awesome as a team. We're just playing our best basketball this year," Poston said. "We were just talking in the locker room, we don't even think that was our best game and we were able to overcome a lot.
"We're not even at our peak yet, I don't think. I think we can get better."
Contact Assistant Sports Editor Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 168, or email@example.com Follow on Twitter @tkeelernvd