By Brad Fauber
FRONT ROYAL -- Warren County's girls basketball team grinded out an ugly 48-35 win over visiting Madison County on Monday evening in the first round of the Bull Run District tournament.
The third-seeded Wildcats looked sloppy at times, as they turned the ball over 21 times and shot just 33.3 percent (13 for 39) from the field, but a 19-point halftime lead was enough to help send Warren County into the tournament semifinal round against Clarke County on the road Tuesday night.
"I think more than anything else, it wasn't how we played, it was our attitude on the court," Wildcats coach John Kelly said. "I thought they outhustled us like crazy tonight."
Both teams struggled to find a rhythm early, as it took nearly two minutes to score the game's first point before Wildcats junior Autumn Troxell rattled in a deep jumper to give Warren County a 2-0 lead.
Madison County -- which was playing without leading scorer Chandler Gentry, who sat out for disciplinary reasons -- finally got on the board with 4:40 left in the first period when freshman Sierra Smith tied the game at 2-2 on a bucket inside off an inbounds pass, but the Wildcats closed the quarter on an 8-2 run to take a 10-4 lead. Warren County senior Alesha Adams scored five points during the run, and Troxell capped the spurt by hitting a jumper at the buzzer.
The Wildcats kept the run going early in the second period, as senior Lauren Woodrell hit a pair of free throws and Adams (12 points) connected on a baseline jumper to extend the lead to 10 points.
Mountaineers sophomore Zoe Graves cut Warren County's lead in half with a 3-pointer from the wing with 6:05 left in the second period, and a Kara Price basket inside brought Madison County within 14-9 with 4:45 left in the half.
"I thought our kids played well. We knew we were coming in without Gentry, so we needed to find a way to get some points," Mountaineers coach Katherine Johnson said. "I think the kids fought. They fought until the end."
But Warren County responded with a 12-0 run over the next four and a half minutes to blow the game open. Troxell, who finished with a game-high 17 points, fueled the run with eight points during the spurt, including six points from the free-throw line.
The Wildcats as a team hit 9 of 12 free throws in the second period and made 20 of 32 free throws in the game. Madison County, on the other hand, struggled with free throws for most of the game. The Mountaineers hit just 12 of 29 free throws, although they did make 11 of their final 15 free throws in the fourth period.
"It's funny because that's kind of been our Achilles' heel in past, and now we're a decent free-throw shooting team," Kelly said. "That really helps you win ballgames. Free throws and rebounds win ballgames for you, and we were lucky to have one of those tonight."
Warren County carried a 30-11 lead into halftime and maintained a 20-point lead throughout the third quarter despite turning the ball over seven times and attempting just five field goals.
Wildcats senior Jordyn Beckner gave Warren County a 42-20 lead on a fast-break layup following her steal with five minutes to play in the fourth period, but Madison County closed the game on a 15-6 run due largely to an improved effort at the free-throw line.
The Mountaineers repeatedly fed the ball inside to Smith, who was able to draw fouls in the paint and convert at the free-throw line. Smith led Madison County with 10 points, the final six of which came at the free-throw line.
Madison County's Cassity Lacy also scored seven of her nine points in the fourth period.
"I thought coming out of halftime we lost our intensity," Kelly said. "That's a hard thing to do when you're up by 20 points, to come back out and match their intensity level."
Contact sports writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter @BradFauberNVD