Warriors’ season ends with semifinal loss

STEPHENS CITY – Sherando’s boys basketball team got off and running against visiting Woodgrove in the semifinal round of the Conference 21 tournament on Thursday evening, as the Warriors traded buckets with the Wolverines during a frantically paced first quarter. Then Woodgrove’s defense dug in.

The No. 3 Wolverines, making a point to constrict its defense and force second-seeded Sherando to settle for perimeter shots, limited the Warriors to seven combined points in the second and third periods, then made free throws down the stretch to secure a 63-52 win.

Woodgrove’s win ended the Warriors’ season and sends the Wolverines to Friday’s conference championship game against No. 4 Loudoun County, which upset top-seeded Millbrook in the other semifinal Thursday night.

“I think we settled for a lot of jump shots,” Sherando coach Garland Williams said. “Jump shots are good, but for our team, we’re not a jump-shot shooting team. We’ve got to rebound and push it up the court. They did a good job doing that and we handcuffed ourselves a couple times because we were maybe a little reluctant about pushing it because of their pressure. You’ve got to give it a shot to see and we didn’t do that.”

Sherando (17-5) found its comfort zone on offense early against Woodgrove (15-8), as the Warriors led 20-17 following a fast-paced first period. Sherando senior Kyle Tusing and Wolverines junior Prakash Ellis did much of the scoring in the period, as Tusing scored 12 points and Ellis poured in 10 in the opening frame.

The Warriors stretched their lead to 24-19 on Alex Morefield’s baseline jumper with six minutes left in the second period, but then Sherando went cold. Woodgrove held the Warriors scoreless for the rest of the period and took a 26-24 lead into halftime.

“It just seemed like the first quarter we kind of were able to come out, we were running, we were doing what we wanted to do, you know. Kind of pushing the tempo, getting the game at our pace,” said Tusing, who finished with 19 points and seven rebounds for Sherando. “It just kind of seemed like the second quarter we came out and they started to slow us down and kind of get us to run their pace. I feel like that messed us up a lot.”

Things didn’t get any better for the Warriors in the third quarter.

Sherando briefly took a 27-26 lead after Jordan Henry’s 3-pointer 30 seconds into the second half, but the Warriors again went scoreless for the rest of the frame while the Wolverines methodically built a 37-27 lead heading into the fourth period.

Woodgrove coach Steve Douglas said the Wolverines did a better job of executing its offense after the first period, but he noted that the biggest difference was made on the defensive end as they looked to prevent the dribble penetration of Henry and Warriors senior Trey Brisco.

“We said our goal was to have [Brisco] and [Henry], to limit them to four combined layups,” said Douglas, whose team lost to Sherando in their only regular-season meeting last week. ” … That was our goal for the game plan. And to keep them out, make them shoot perimeter jump shots and rebound. I thought we did a better job on the defensive end rebounding in the second quarter than we did at the beginning of the game.”

Sherando’s offense finally opened back up in the fourth quarter, but Woodgrove had an answer every time the Warriors appeared to be making a run.

The Warriors opened the quarter with a 3-pointer from Morefield and a driving layup by Brisco (13 points, nine rebounds) to cut the Wolverines’ lead to 37-32, but Woodgrove senior Jameson Copeland answered with a 3-pointer to push the lead back to eight points.

A traditional 3-point play by Tusing was countered with another trey by Copeland, and Brisco’s 3 was immediately negated by a trey from Woodgrove’s Davie Wick that gave the Wolverines a 47-38 lead with 4:10 left.

Sherando cut the deficit back to five points one final time with back-to-back buckets by Tusing and Brisco, but Wick’s second 3-pointer of the period gave Woodgrove a 50-42 lead with 3:10 remaining.

Woodgrove also hit 10 of 12 free throws in the fourth period to hold off the Warriors.

“Very frustrating,” Tusing said. “You get up and you get a good bucket and you think everything’s turning around for you. And they hit a good shot, they hit that good 3 and it put them back ahead. It’s emotional, very roller coaster-like.”

Matt Gilson (17 points) led a Woodgrove offense that featured four double-digit scorers, as he was joined by Ellis (14 points), Copeland (12 points) and Wick (11 points, eight rebounds).

Woodgrove shot 43.8 percent (21 for 48) from the floor. Sherando, which was playing without starting forward Josh Dolsen, who had a college-related commitment, shot 37.5 percent (21 for 56) from the field in the loss.

Williams took a moment after the game to reflect on Sherando’s season, which ended a win shy of a Region 4A North berth.

“Record-wise it looks like a successful season,” he said. “Not only dealing with that, but just the guys coming around to believing in themselves, doing some things that we like to do. I think this group was a real good group as far as having good cohesiveness and togetherness and working together. You probably can go back throughout the whole season and find two, three, four different people that stepped up throughout the whole season and that made it an enjoyable season.”

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