Powerful East Rock rolls over Generals
QUICKSBURG — Having lost a close affair to county rival Central on this same court several days ago, Stonewall Jackson girls basketball coach Jeff Burner refused to use a potential letdown after the heart-breaker as an excuse for Friday’s 65-28 Shenandoah District dismantling at the hands of East Rockingham.
Instead, the coach said it was the Eagles’ full-court pressure and overall talent disparity which spelled the difference in the Generals’ 27-point loss.
“They put a lot of pressure on us at the beginning, and then their talent took over,” said Burner, after Stonewall fell to 0-2 in the district, 1-5 overall.
East Rockingham, which has attended either a Group A or Group 2A Final Four in each of its five years of existence, forced 25 turnovers on their way to an easy victory.
The Eagles, who have won the states twice in those five years, may be the most talented team in the Shenandoah. Friday’s was their third consecutive success in the district. They are 5-4 overall, having lost twice each to Spotswood and Turner Ashby, both 3A schools.
But the visitors certainly are not the only strong opponents Burner’s team has faced. Its previous four defeats had come to Central (twice), Strasburg and Stuarts Draft — teams with an aggregate 18-7 record heading into Friday’s games.
Interestingly, the Generals had held leads in several of those four defeats. In second matchup against Central, they scored 20 points against the Falcons without closing out the game for a victory.
There were no such dramatics against East Rockingham.
The Eagles, who emptied their bench in the first half and put nine girls in the scoring column, used a man-to-man press to force Stonewall into a myriad of miscues.
They led 18-2 before Stonewall earned its first field goal — a 3-pointer by Jailyn Dellinger.
But trailing by 13, the Generals saw their adversaries outscore them 17-2 for a 35-7 lead at the 4:13 mark of the second quarter. At that point, East Rockingham coach Paul Comer, who has coached every game in the Eagles’ history, started substituting liberally.
“Certainly there are things we can learn in this game. Fronting the post is one thing we can carry with us. Their center, Jayme Kokkonen, does a good job posting up,” said Comer.
“I told the girls there are some positives we can take from this game,” said Burner. “Madison Long was aggressive, [Dellinger] shot the ball well. Sara Streett did some good things.”
Dellinger had a team-high 13 points, which featured a trio 3-point bombs.
“Coach has been on me to shoot it. He yells at me when I don’t,” said the freshman, breaking into a smile. “But I don’t want to shoot it every time I get it.”
Eagles coach Comer’s daughter, Madison, led all scorers with 19 points, including one shot from beyond the 3-point line. She is a two-time all-state guard, playing her last season for the power.
“Yeah, we’re kind of expected to make it to the final four. The states are always our goal. It puts pressure on us, but that kind of pressure is good,” she said.
The Eagles received support from Taylor Shifflett (13) and Lexi Dean (10).