By Tommy Keeler Jr.
FRONT ROYAL -- The five Warren County seniors couldn't have asked for a better Senior Night.
The Wildcats led from start to finish using a balanced attack to knock off first-place George Mason, 57-53, in Bull Run District girls basketball action Thursday.
"There aren't any words to describe it," Warren County senior Lauren Woodrell said. "Everything just fell into place."
Woodrell said Warren County coach John Kelly gave a pre-game speech that had the team fired up from the start.
"He said a lot great words to the seniors for being here," Woodrell said. "And talking about how we've been here since when we could barely win any games, and seeing the program climb to a championship-caliber team.
"It made us want to play like the championship team we are."
The Wildcats (12-8, 11-4 Bull Run) looked like a championship team, especially in the first half. Warren County shot 57.1 percent (16-for-28) from the field.
Warren County senior Alesha Adams had a lot to do with that as she scored 18 of her team-high 20 points in the first half on 8-for-10 shooting.
"I think it was just Senior Night adrenaline," Adams said of her first half. "It was just a big game and we all wanted to win, so I think that all incorporated into it. My team was feeding me the ball and getting me open looks."
The Wildcats held a 35-26 lead at the half. While Warren County shot the ball well, the Mustangs struggled. They shot only 26.3 percent (10-for-38) from the field in the opening half.
George Mason head coach LaBryan Thomas was not at the game due to a death in the family.
"We shot horribly," George Mason assistant coach Lori Lafave said. "We are a team that has an inside-outside game, and the outside game wasn't hitting our shots. The shots were open. They just weren't falling."
Led by George Mason center Katie Goodwin, the Mustangs were able to keep things close throughout. Goodwin had a game-high 24 points, but was also in foul trouble throughout the contest.
Goodwin scored four points early in the fourth period to cut the lead to 46-41 with 6:23 left in the game. The Wildcats responded with two free throws by Autumn Troxell and two more by Adams.
A 3-pointer by Jullianna Rollo cut the lead to 53-46 with 3:38 left. Two free throws by Troxell and one by Jordyn Beckner pushed the lead back to seven, before a basket by Goodwin cut the lead to five with 1:44 left.
Woodrell then hit layups on back-to-back possessions to seal the win for the Wildcats.
"The last layups, it was one of those things where we wanted to settle down the game a little bit," Woodrell said. "It was just open, and you always play to win."
Goodwin had eight rebounds and three assists to go with her points. She was the only player in double figures for the Mustangs. George Mason (16-6, 14-2 Bull Run) is now tied with Clarke County for first place, and Lafave said there will probably be a coin flip to decide the top seed in next week's district tournament.
Adams had seven rebounds and two assists for the Wildcats, while Troxell had 13 points and Beckner had 11.
The Wildcats have now beaten every team in the Bull Run District this season, which should give them added confidence going into the tournament.
No matter what happens next week, the Senior Night will always be remembered by the five seniors.
"The win was great, especially to a team that we had previously lost to," Woodrell said. "But with all of my teammates, and the thought that they have put into everything they have done tonight, it's been hard for me not to cry all night because it's hard to leave a family as close as this."
Contact Assistant Sports Editor Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 168, or firstname.lastname@example.org Follow on Twitter @tkeelernvd