Freshman Scott gives Falcons presence in paint

By Brad Fauber

WOODSTOCK — Central girls basketball coach Mallory Skarupa knew the Falcons had some holes to fill at the forward position heading into this season.

With only two true forwards returning from last year’s team, the Falcons began preseason practice with the position essentially up for grabs. But Skarupa already had a good idea who would likely fill that starting role for Central months before the season began.

Freshman Tamra Scott, who spent her eighth-grade season playing basketball for her father on the program’s middle school team, impressed Skarupa so much during Central’s basketball camp last June that the second-year coach knew Scott was ready to make the leap to the varsity level this season.

“I remember checking her out over at our summer camp and she just dominated,” Skarupa said after practice on Wednesday. “She was making moves and felt just really comfortable under the basket, which is something that we’d been looking for. It was a void that we needed to fill. As soon as I saw her … I was like, yeah, she’s going to need to step up.”

Central is now preparing for its first trip to the state tournament since winning the Group A title in 1996, and Scott has emerged as that steady presence in the paint that the Falcons were desperately seeking.

The 5-foot-7 Scott, though slightly undersized for a varsity forward, currently leads the Falcons in rebounding (7.1 per game) while averaging 6.8 points per game, a mark good for third on the team.

Scott said it took her a few games to begin to settle in to her varsity role, but Skarupa noticed things beginning to click for the freshman in Central’s fifth game of the season.

“I think it was [at] George Mason there where she had like 10 points, and she had a very quiet 10 points. That’s when I was like, ‘This girl can be it for us. She can be that constant wave that we can ride down in the post and just be that presence for us,'” Skarupa said.

Scott has since tallied four double-doubles this season, and she scored a career-high 15 points in a blowout win over Skyline on Jan. 29.

“She has the never back down, just all out attitude, which is awesome and definitely something that we need down there,” Falcons senior point guard Katelyn Poston said. “She doesn’t let people strike fear in her.”

Scott has increasingly gained confidence as the season has gone on, and she continues to build on-court chemistry with Poston and the rest of her Central teammates. It has helped Scott forget all about the uncertainty she felt before the season began.

“I was a little worried at the tryouts,” Scott said. “I wanted to stay on the JV side but coach Skarupa encouraged me, and all the other girls encouraged me, to go step up on varsity. Looking back now, I’m proud that I did. I’m happy with the way I am now. It’s a big deal going from eighth grade to varsity, but I just feel like I fit in very well.”

It has helped Scott that she has also developed a special bond with a group of Central seniors that consists of Poston, Rebecca Truban, Mary Wakeman and Sydney Plum.

Scott said that the Falcons’ quartet of seniors has really taken her under their wing this season, which has taken some of the pressure off of Scott and provided the freshman with a calming presence on the court.

That unique bond was epitomized in Central’s eventual 49-45 overtime win over John Marshall in the 3A East regional semifinals on Feb. 26. Scott broke down in tears shortly after the Justices claimed a two-point lead on an offensive stickback and a free throw with 5.9 seconds to play in the fourth quarter, but a technical foul on John Marshall provided Central with a chance to tie.

Poston calmly pulled Scott to the side during a break in the action to guarantee the game wasn’t over for the Falcons. Poston then stepped to the line and coolly hit both free throws to tie the game.

“I was upset that they pulled ahead and there was like five seconds left. But when KP hugged me and she said, ‘I will knock these free throws down for you and we’ll get back in it and we’ll win this thing,’ it was just comforting,” Scott said.

Scott said that bond with the senior group has helped the Falcons continue what has been an “amazing ride” deep into the postseason, and it’s a reason the Falcons are playing defending state champion Spotswood at James Madison University on Saturday for a chance to play in the 3A state championship game.

“We don’t want to leave them yet as much as they don’t want to leave us, so we’re just trying to make the most for them,” Scott said.

Contact sports writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or Follow on Twitter @BradFauberNVD