Stars ride fast start to victory

Shenandoah Valley Academy's Salima Omwenga goes up for a layup off a fast break while Massanutten Military Academy's Fan Huang runs into her for a foul during first half girls basketball action Thursday night in New Market. Rich Cooley/Daily

NEW MARKET — Shenandoah Valley Academy’s fast start on Thursday may have gotten into the heads of Massanutten Military Academy’s girls basketball team.

Stars point guard Karina Ruiz struck for eight points — including a pair of 3-pointers — in the first 90 seconds of the game, putting MMA in an early deficit and setting the tone for the Colonels’ 40-26 defeat.

“Whenever you have that one good shooter that comes out and makes their shots, it’s already in your head,” Colonels head coach Holly Helsley said. “And we’re working on that, too. My girls, I love them to death. Win or lose, they’re the best to me. But they need work on letting the small stuff go.”

Ruiz sparked the Stars initially with her hot shooting, as she nailed a trey from the top of the arc 10 seconds into the game, connected on a bucket in the paint and knocked down another 3 from the wing to give SVA an 8-2 lead.

MMA (0-3) rallied to cut the Stars’ lead to 12-10 following a fast-break layup by Chelsea Reid off her own steal with 1:20 left in the first period, but Ruiz caught fire again late in the period to quickly push SVA’s lead to double-digits.

Shenandoah Valley Academy's Lei Edwards goes up for a jump shot during first half girls basketball action against Massanutten Military Academy in New Market Thursday night. Rich Cooley/Daily

Ruiz — who scored all of her team-high 14 points in the first period — hit her third 3-pointer of the frame with one minute remaining, and she ended the quarter by swiping a steal, converting a layup in transition while drawing a foul and sinking the free throw to put the Stars up 20-10.

“Girls basketball tends to, they can get down easy but they can get back up easy, also. A couple baskets early fires them up,” Stars head coach Jeff Twomley said.

Ruiz and the rest of SVA’s offense cooled off considerably after that, but the Stars did plenty on the defensive end to ensure the Colonels would be playing catch-up for the final three quarters. The Stars, who utilized a zone half-court trap, forced MMA into 45 turnovers, 16 of which came in the first period.

“We were doing a 1-3-1 half-court press on defense and that really worked this time,” Twomley said. “The girls were really aggressive and it helped to slow the other team down.”

“We’re still working on that,” Helsley said of the Colonels’ turnovers. “This is only our third game with girls that have never picked up a basketball in their entire life. I’ve to got to work with what I’ve got.”

Massanutten Military Academy's Chelsea Reid drives on Shenandoah Valley Academy's Chloe Petit during first half girls basketball action Thursday night in New Market. Rich Cooley/Daily

SVA led 26-16 at halftime but put the game away in the third period, as the Stars outscored MMA 10-1 in the period while forcing the Colonels into 14 more turnovers. Five different players hit baskets for SVA in the quarter, and the Stars — who shot 24.2 percent (16 for 66) — had nine different players score points in the win.

“We were coming to the ball from our five position, which is another senior, Lei Edwards, who was doing a good job rebounding. She had a couple putbacks,” Twomley said. “Other than that, ball movement was pretty good and the spirit was good.”

In addition to poor ball security, MMA struggled to generate much offense outside of the production of Chelsea Reid. The forward, who connected on her first five shots, scored the first 16 points for the Colonels and finished with a game-high 18. Reid also had 11 steals.

“Chelsea is definitely one of my star players,” said Helsley, whose Colonels shot 22.4 percent from the field. “She maintains the team. She keeps their composure up. If somebody’s not doing something right out on the court and they don’t hear me, she takes control. Chelsea’s definitely a big help to me and to our team.”

Salima Omwenga, Maddy Nhdahayo, Carla Navarro, and Victoria Rios each finished with four points for the Stars.

Kimmy Martinez had four points for MMA.

Contact staff writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or bfauber@nvdaily.com