Generals earn long-awaited win
QUICKSBURG — At halftime, Stonewall Jackson girls basketball coach Jeff Burner told his team that if it could keep the bigger Riverheads squad off the boards, it would win.
The Generals did just that.
Behind dominating rebounding, caring for the ball and playing stout defense, Stonewall picked up its first Shenandoah District victory in two years, knocking off the visiting Gladiators 40-25 in front of a joyous crowd.
“What baskets they got, they were getting off put-backs. I just told them that if they could keep [Riverheads] off the boards, we had a real shot to win this game,” said Burner.
“It wasn’t particularly like they were scoring a lot from inside, but they were controlling the ball. Coach yells at me about not boxing out, and I knew if I could do that — if we could do that — we were going to come out in front,” said Generals junior Cheyenne Crigger.
Crigger and senior Emily Jordan (four rebounds) and senior Kayla Miller (five) helped fashion a 25-12 rebounding edge over the Gladiators (0-5 Shenandoah, 5-6 overall).
So dominating were the Generals (1-2, 2-5) in the rebounding category that they allowed their district rival just one board in the third quarter and none in the fourth.
“If I had to point to one thing that we did that helped us turn this game, I think it was us doing the job on the backboards,” Burner said. “We really got after it.”
Stonewall Jackson finished winless in 2013-14 and claimed a 31-28 victory in this season’s opener at Eastern Mennonite.
“Jayme [Kokkonen] turned to me in the [post-game locker room] and said, ‘Do you know this is the first time in two years that we have beaten a team by more than three points?'” said a happy Crigger.
“When Coach called “Yellow,” we didn’t really know what to do. We’ve run it when we were way behind, but never when we had a lead,” Jordan said.
“Yellow” is the formation the Generals use when they are killing clock by maneuvering the ball around the perimeter without necessarily looking for a shot.
“We went into it with about four minutes left and we were ahead,” said Jordan. “That was a first for us.”
Stonewall Jackson trailed 21-19 with 2:22 left in the first half when it went on a 21-1 streak that included a 16-0 string that left the Gladiators helpless at the end.
Olivia Marshall started the run with a free throw to cut the Riverheads lead to one, then the Generals began bombing away.
J.J. Dellinger knocked down her only basket of the game –a 3-pointer — that was a portent of things to come.
“They used a junk defense on us at first. It was a box-and-two. They played zone and covered J.J. and Emily one-on-one,” said Burner.
Following Dellinger’s triple, Riverheads’ Blake Barkley hit one of two free throws. Those would be the Gladiators’ last points until the final basket of the game.
Crigger followed with a 3 of her own to give the Generals a four-point pad heading into the halftime locker room.
Coming out of the break, Jordan, who finished with a game-high 13 points, hit consecutively from beyond the 3-point line for a 32-22 advantage with 5:08 to go. The Generals had outscored the Gladiators 13-1.
In all, Jordan connected on three shots from beyond the 3-point line.
“I thought when that first one dropped in, and then Emily hit hers, I figured, ‘We could do that. We can win this,” said Crigger, who finished with nine points.
Jordan’s first bomb of the second half came courtesy of her defensive rebound when she went to the floor to pick up the ball and get it to her teammates who promptly dropped it back to her as she crossed the mid-court line.
“I told (Jordan) in there. I’m not sure I’ve been around a more gutsy performance that what she did tonight,” said Burner.
Along with her points and rebounds, Jordan came through with two steals and did a masterful job of driving into the lane, shooting or pitching out. She also spent a decent amount of time on the floor, fighting for loose balls.
Jayme Kokkonen added 10 points and three rebounds.
Playing loosely, the Generals put the game out of reach. Jayme Kokkonen knocked down a short shot, then Miller, Dellinger and Crigger all went to the line and hit their pairs of free throws.
By the time Macey Snyder hit her second 3-ball with 24.9 seconds left, the score was 40-25.
One Gladiator notched double figures in scoring, Emma Casto with 12 points.