By Tommy Keeler Jr.
HARRISONBURG -- Central had a tough task, playing against defending state champion Spotswood on Saturday. For much of the first half the Falcons hung with the Trailblazers, but a 3-pointing shooting surge helped Spotswood pull away.
The Trailblazers hit five 3-pointers in the second period en route to a 75-52 Class 3A state semifinal win over the Falcons at James Madison University.
Spotswood coach Chris Dodson said he normally tells his players to stay away from the 3-pointer when they play in big games in big facilities. However, the Falcons were in a zone defense most of the game as they tried to slow down forward Tayler Dodson, and she was able to kick the ball out to some open teammates for 3-pointers.
"We knew that when Tayler [Dodson] touched the ball there was going to be four people around her, and we just kicked it out," Chris Dodson said. "It seemed like every ball she kicked out these guys made. We have a philosophy that once you make a three, keep shooting that beast."
The Trailblazers struggled to make anything in the first period, but the Falcons were unable to take advantage.
Central turned the ball over 14 times in the first quarter, while Spotswood turned it over nine times.
A 3-pointer by Central senior Mary Wakeman and a basket by senior Katelyn Poston helped give the Falcons a 9-8 lead late in the first period.
Two free throws by Tayler Dodson with .7 seconds left gave Spotswood a 10-9 lead after the first eight minutes.
Poston hit a 3-pointer to start the second period and give Central a 12-10 lead. Spotswood then began its barrage of 3-pointers.
Spotswood's Elizabeth Dofflemyer and Nikki Lam combinbed for three 3-pointers and give the Trailblazers a 19-17 lead with 5:59 left in the first half.
"We wanted to go 2-3 [zone defense], because of the size," Central coach Mallory Skarupa said. "We thought we could get out on them, and we didn't get our hands up. Pip [Rebecca Truban] and Mary [Wakeman] were responsible for a little too much, coming down and crashing and doubling on the post and getting out. And we just didn't quite have the stamina for that today."
Central freshman Tamra Scott, who had a team-high 22 points and 19 rebounds, tied the game on a basket inside with 5:36 left in the first half. It would be the last tie of the game.
The Trailblazers (26-1) used an 18-4 run to take a 37-23 lead with 1:54 left in the first half.
Spotswood hit two more 3-pointers during the run.
"We tried to stop them on defense and then answer on the offensive end," Dofflemyer said of the 3-point explosion. "Once we made the first one our rhythm was there, and evrybody was starting to make them."
The Falcons (19-9) trailed 41-27 at the half, and a basket by Scott cut the lead to 41-29 early in the third period.
However, the Trailblazers went on an 8-0 run, and the Falcons couldn't recover.
Spotswood will now play Broadway in the Class 3A final on Thursday at VCU in Richmond at noon.
Dofflemyer finished with 26 points and six rebounds, and Tayler Dodson had 17 points, seven rebounds, seven assists and five steals for the Trailblazers. McKenzie Jenkins added 13 points for Spotswood.
Poston had eight points, and Sydney Plum and Meredith Phillips each had five points and three assists for Central.
The play of Scott was definitely one of the best bright spots for the Falcons. The 5-foot-7 freshman was matched up against several taller Trailblazers.
"I think it was really tough down there, being a samller post than 6-foot," Scott said. "I just felt like I kept with them, and got my rebounds and got the shots up that I needed. It just clicked for me today."
Central will certainly miss seniors Poston, the school's all-time leading scorer, Plum, Wakeman and Truban. Despite the loss, it was a great season for he seniors.
"We started out in seventh grade, and we made it all the way to the NVJL championship," Plum said. "And we were close to it this year, our final year, but we didn't quite come out with it.
"But it's a good way to end your senior year, at least in the state tournament. Not many people can say that they did that."
Contact Assistant Sports Editor Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 168, or firstname.lastname@example.org Follow on Twitter @tkeelernvd