Wildcats turn back Rams with key free throws

STRASBURG — Autumn Troxell stepped to the line and contributed four straight free throws Friday night to keep Strasburg at bay and pull off a 38-33 Bull Run District win on the road for Warren County.

“I told the kids in there that’s the way you close out a game — you put your senior at the foul line and she makes four in a row,” Strasburg coach Joel Morgan said. “Still, though, I have to give my kids credit. They battled.”

Indeed they did. But in the end it was the 6-foot-1 Troxell who contributed five of six free throws in the fourth quarter. They were part of her game-high 22 points as the Wildcats (4-2 overall, 3-1 district) knocked off Strasburg (3-2, 2-1).

“We practice free throws every day. Our coach [John Kelly] tells us they’re important because they can decide a game. Tonight they did just that,” Troxell said.

Her foul shots came before a boisterous crowd at the Strasburg gym, buoyed by the student-body “Mountain” cheering section.

“We work on putting that out of our head and just concentrate on the game,” said Troxell, who contributed four rebounds and three blocked shots.

Her performance came in lieu of an excellent shooting night by the Rams’ Kelsey Jenkins, who scored a team-high 15 points, including 10 of her team’s last 13 points.

Jenkins knocked down two free throws to pull her team within 34-33 with 17.5 seconds left.

Warren County immediately called a timeout and ultimately turned an inbounds play into a foul-shooting opportunity for Troxell, who banged home the first of four straight.

Her last free shots came with 7.7 seconds to go.

“We were down as many as seven points and we battled back,” Morgan said. “We had a lot of fight, we just couldn’t get over the hump.”

Troxell said her team shoots free throws almost every day in practice. The way Kelly does it is have each girl shoot five, then they run gassers for the shots they missed.

“We pretty much do that for five minutes,” Troxell said.

Her shots were reminiscent of her team’s opener against William Monroe, when Troxell’s two free throws with 4.9 seconds left proved to be the Wildcats’ winning margin.

“I was thinking of that,” Troxell said.

Warren County led by as many as six points with seven minutes left, but Strasburg would not go away.

The Wildcats led by four with 3:28 showing and five at the 1:28 mark, but each time Jenkins helped bring the Rams back.

“I work on my shooting every day. I knew we didn’t have much time left and that we needed points, so that’s what I tried to do tonight,” Jenkins said.

Jenkins’ 3-pointer with 35 seconds left tied the game at 31, but Troxell hit a pair of free throws and teammate Dallas Crawford contributed one foul shot for a three-point lead with 25.3 second showing.

Jenkins answered with a pair from the foul line and Strasburg was down a point at the 17.5 mark.