Big fourth quarter sends Falcons past Rams

WOODSTOCK — Central’s girls basketball team closed out Friday’s home game against rival Strasburg in a big way.

Taking a seven-point lead into the fourth quarter, the Falcons outscored the Rams by 14 points over the final eight minutes of action en route to a 45-24 win. Central, which improved to 8-2 (5-2 Bull Run) with the district victory, finished the game on an 11-0 run.

“We came out in our little huddle before we started the first play of the fourth quarter and we said to each other that they’re going to want this more than we do because it’s the fourth quarter and they’re down,” Falcons junior guard Cianne Fields said. “We knew that they wanted this game just as bad as we did so we knew that we had to just fight, fight, fight and keep putting up shots, play the best defense we possibly could to pull this one out.”

Friday’s game between the longtime Shenandoah County rivals was a defensive struggle through the first three periods before Central’s offense finally opened up in the final frame.

With Central leading 25-18, Falcons sophomore Tamra Scott — who found limited success against Strasburg’s (6-5, 3-4) defense through the first three periods — delivered seven points during a 9-4 Central run that extended the Falcons’ lead to 34-22 midway through the fourth quarter.

Scott finished with a co-game-high 13 points, nine of which came in the final period.

“They were doing a really good job of doubling and tripling down on me on the block, so it was really tough,” said Scott, who also had 12 rebounds and four steals to lead the Falcons. “But Cianne and them got a couple nice seal passes up high and I think that helped a lot.”

The Rams briefly cut the deficit back to 10 points following a jumper from the free-throw line by junior point guard Kelsey Jenkins with 4:15 remaining, but Strasburg failed to score a point the rest of the way.

Strasburg head coach Joel Morgan said the Rams had to speed up the tempo of the game in the fourth period, which he admitted is “probably not going to play into our favor.”

“I thought our defensive plan was fine. I don’t fault our kids for their competitiveness. The game was a lot closer than the final score indicated,” said Morgan, whose team shot 28.9 percent (11 for 38) from the field. “You’ve got to be able to put some points up. Sometimes it was execution, probably some of it bad coaching and then sometimes you’ve just got to make a shot.”

Central, which has struggled at the free-throw line so far this season, made 10 of 11 free throws in the fourth period. The Falcons made 13 of 22 free throws total in the win.

“They’re game changers, really. At any given point if we miss a free throw that could be the game for us,” said Fields, who was 6 for 7 from the line in the fourth quarter and finished with 13 points and three assists. “We knew that we had to hit them and we knew that if we went up for the shot that it was going to be important that we be in the mental state to hit those. I think we did very well at that.”

Friday’s game was back-and-forth for much of the night, as Strasburg staked an early lead before Central rallied behind Brooklyn Pumphrey’s five first-period points for an 11-6 lead after the first eight minutes.

The Rams opened the second period on an 8-2 run and briefly took a 14-13 lead following two made free throws by Emily Melnikoff with 3:34 left in the first half. But Central reclaimed the lead for good when Pumphrey (nine points, seven rebounds) converted a stickback on the Falcons’ next possession.

Central maintained a slim lead after a low scoring third period before the Falcons, who shot 35.6 percent (16 for 45) from the field, outscored the Rams 20-6 in the fourth quarter.

“When we decide we want something and get after it we can be very dangerous,” Falcons head coach Mallory Skarupa said. “Crunch time, we only missed one free in the fourth quarter. When the game’s on the line we’re going to step up and perform, we just need to do that consistently throughout.”

Jenkins and Melnikoff finished with eight points apiece for Strasburg.

Ayanna Strother had eight points, three assists and two steals for the Falcons.

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