Fields, Falcons rally past Rams

WOODSTOCK — For most of the game it looked like it was going to be déjà vu for Central, but junior guard Cianne Fields made sure that didn’t happen.

Fields helped the Falcons rally past Strasburg, 41-38, in the Bull Run District girls basketball tournament quarterfinals on Monday night.

The Rams upset the Falcons last year in the tourney quarterfinals, and the two teams were seeded exactly the same this season.

“We definitely did not want history to repeat itself, and it didn’t tonight,” Fields said.

Fields had a lot to do with that as she scored 10 of her game-high 18 points in the final quarter, including two critical free throws.

With the Falcons clinging to a 39-38 lead with 5.5 seconds left, Fields stepped to the line and calmly sank two free throws to extend the lead to three. Fields said she missed a free throw with a chance to tie the game in a one-point loss to John Champe earlier this season, and she learned from the experience.

“I’ve been putting in some work in the gym, and it paid off because I made the two at the end when it counted,” Fields said.

Strasburg had one last opportunity, but missed a jumper at the buzzer.

The Rams (12-11) led the entire first half as both teams struggled from the field. The two teams went a combined 10-for-51 (19.6 percent) and Strasburg led 14-12. The Falcons scored the last six points of the half to cut the lead to two, and Fields had six points at the half to keep the Falcons close.

“We just couldn’t buy a bucket, and part of that is us not going up strong enough and just going for the foul and then pouting when it doesn’t happen,” Central coach Mallory Skarupa said. “Which is why we have to be mentally tough. We’re not going to get calls. You have to go in and finish it, and make the layups and do the little things we need you to do. We’ve got to toughen up.”

Central’s Brooklyn Pumphrey and Erika Thorpe each scored a basket inside the paint to give the Falcons their first lead of the game, 16-14, early in the third period.

The lead would be short-lived. Strasburg junior guard Carey Scott drained a 3-pointer to give Strasburg a 17-16 lead with 5:03 left in the third period.

The Rams opened the lead to six points with a free throw by Haley Bischoff and baskets by Kelsey Jenkins and Emily Melnikoff. Central cut the lead to 24-21 on a free throw by Pumphrey and a basket by Fields to end the third period.

Central (17-6) was able to tie the game at 24-24 on a layup by Fields, but Jenkins responded with a layup and a 3-pointer to give the Rams a 29-24 edge with 5:30 left in the game.

The two teams went back and forth until a basket by Central freshman Ayanna Strother cut the lead to 31-30. Both teams were in foul trouble throughout the game, and the last 2:25 of the game came down to foul shots.

The Rams went 5-for-15 in the final period from the free-throw line and 9-for-23 for the contest, allowing Central to claw its way back in the game.

“It’s a tough pill to swallow,” Strasburg coach Joel Morgan said. “I felt like we executed what we wanted to do. We got to the free-throw line time after time, we just didn’t finish it at the free-throw line.”

The Rams had a four-point lead with 2:12 left, but Central’s Tamra Scott made two free throws, and Strasburg missed four straight free throws.

Fields scored inside to tie the game at 34-34 with 1:12 left. After a missed shot by Strasburg, Pumphrey was fouled with 47 seconds left. She made the first free throw and missed the second one, but Strother grabbed the rebound and scored to give the Falcons a 37-34 lead with 43 seconds left.

“She stayed with it,” Skarupa said of Strother’s play. “Her thing is she just needs confidence. I know she’s young, but she’s a player. She needs to own that and realize that. She could make some plays for us.”

Strasburg continued to hurt itself at the foul line as the Rams missed three out of their next four free throws, while two Central free throws extended the lead to 39-35 with 19 seconds left. Bischoff converted a conventional three-point play with six seconds left to cut the lead to 39-38.

Jenkins led the Rams with 11 points and two assists, while Melnikoff had seven points, nine rebounds and three assists. Strasburg will host Luray on Feb. 16 in the Conference 35 quarterfinals.

“We’ve got to take some time and get ready for Luray,” Morgan said. “We know they’re a tough team. We just have to bounce back from this, and I know we will.”

The Falcons were playing without starting point guard Brooke Sager, who sprained a ligament in her foot last week. Pumphrey had six points, 12 rebounds, two assists and two blocks, and Scott had five points and 14 rebounds for Central. Strother added eight points and two steals, and Thorpe had four points, eight rebounds and two assists for the Falcons.

Central plays George Mason in the district tourney semifinals Tuesday at Clarke County at 6 p.m.

“We’d like to give Mason a run for their money,” Skarupa said. “We stayed with them three out of four quarters last time around, and just completely laid an egg in the third quarter last time. It’s going to be a little more difficult without Brooke [Sager] having a ball handler out there, but we’ll give it our all.”

Contact staff writer Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 168, or tkeeler@nvdaily.com