Warriors produce complete effort in home win

STEPHENS CITY — The last time these two teams met, Sherando girls basketball coach Mike Marsh figured he got three good quarters out of his Warriors. On Tuesday, he got all four. And, as far as the coach was concerned, that made the difference.

“We played four quarters instead of [giving away] eight minutes. Tonight, we played the full 32 and that was the difference in the game,” he said.

The Sherando coach had just watched his Warriors take care of Northwestern District, Conference 21 foe James Wood, 78-68 at home, in what could be a pivotal game on several levels.

First, it gave the home team a regular-season split with its Frederick County neighbor. More importantly, it improved the Marsh-coached team’s overall record to 9-7, 3-2 in the district.

Second, it gave the Warriors the conference victory over the Colonels. The team with the best conference record gets an automatic berth in the 4A North regional tournament and the No. 1 seed in the conference post-season event. The better the conference record, the better the seeding for the teams in the latter tourney.

Heading into Tuesday’s games, Millbrook (6-0) was atop the district standings, while James Wood dropped to 11-5, 2-4. Handley was 3-3 district-wide, as of Tuesday.

When these teams last met on Jan. 16, James Wood won by a 58-48 score. After a first quarter worth forgetting for Marsh and team, the Warriors held the then homestanding Colonels to just six field goals and 21 points in the last three quarters.

“The difference was, tonight, we just played defense. We played better man-to-man. We were sometimes sloppy. They got some points, but we did a better job overall dealing with their left-handed players,” Marsh said.

Since Sherando has no player the varsity who is a southpaw, junior-varsity player Amber Garrett, a lefty, was brought up to the squad to simulate that kind of an opponent.

“We brought her up for about a week and it really paid off,” Marsh said.

James Wood coach Krista Crites said her team took about 60 shots. “Getting shots wasn’t the problem, making them was the problem,” she said.

Sherando, which had dropped two games in a row, never trailed, but there were several occasions when James Wood pulled close or tied. “Every time they did, we somehow found somebody who helped us get out of it,” Marsh said.

After opening ahead 9-2, Sherando held just a 13-11 first quarter lead.

After a 13-all tie to open the second period, the Warriors were ahead by as many as 25-20 on a Madison Leckie basket with 4:42 left in the half.

James Wood cut it to one on two consecutive field goals, but again Jess Hakel hit a shot for a 27-24 decision with 2:24 showing.

Sherando led 34-28 with 47.6 seconds left in the half and Heidi Brown’s 3-pointer kept the gap at six with 5:10 left in the third. Again, James Wood was not to be denied. This time it was Dani Rizzari and Keianna Brooks scoring back-to-back baskets to make it a 2-point game.

Hakel, Davina Lane and Audra Sites strung together six points and an eight-point lead with 3:14 showing in the frame.

However, Hakel, a senior, picked up her third foul at the 3:05 mark, and came out for a breather.

By the time she made it back to the court, the game was tied for the third time, 50-all with 17.4 seconds left in the third.

Ahead by two with 7:04 left in the game, the Hakel-led group proceeded to open up the score. The Warriors outscored the Colonels 15-4 to go ahead 69-56 with 3:24 showing.

Hakel, who scored her 1,000th career point last week, finished with a game-high 20 points. She said playing against James Wood for what will be the last time in the regular season had nothing to do with her eight field goals and 4-of-5 performance from the foul line.

“It’s important because it’s the next win and we’re trying to put some wins together,” she said.

“We don’t have ‘last times’ in January, we’ll wait till February for that,” Marsh said.

Hakel scored eight points in the first half, then added that many in the third period. Meanwhile Lane, a sophomore, scored 11 of her 19 tallies in the first quarter.

Audra Sites had 14 points and Heidi Brown finished with 13.

James Wood got 19 scores from Brooks, 16 from Rizzari, 11 by Grace Greene and 10 for Sara Johnson.

The Warriors made 23 of 35 free-throw attempts. The Colonels hit 15 of 23. Brooks had nine of those.

“You’ve got to play for the full 32 minutes because if you don’t, you’re going to get beat,” Crites said. “Tonight, we got beat.”