Wildcats fall to top seed

Warren County's Jordan Christian brings the ball up the floor under pressure from Clarke County's Jade Payton during girls Bull Run District tournament semifinal action Tuesday night in Berryille. Rich Cooley/Daily

BERRYVILLE – For one half of Tuesday’s Bull Run District tournament semifinal game against host Clarke County, Warren County remained within striking distance of the top-seeded Eagles. But the district’s regular season champion looked truer to form in the second half.

Clarke County used its full-court pressure defense in the second half to help offset some offensive struggles against the Wildcats, and the Eagles coasted to a 57-36 win to advance to Thursday’s championship game against No. 2 George Mason.

“They’re a very talented team and they outplayed us tonight, but I thought for most of the game we out-hustled them,” Wildcats coach John Kelly said. “That’s something that I told my girls [in the locker room], that they had the talent but for most of the game we had the heart. We hung around. That score really isn’t fair to show as close as it was, but they came out with that press and we had a couple of bad turnovers, didn’t get a couple of shots to fall in.”

After getting into some foul trouble in the first half, Clarke County (23-1) backed off of its full-court pressure in the second period and, despite limiting Warren County (12-10) to 12 first-half points, led by only 11 at halftime.

The Wildcats cut that lead to 23-16 after back-to-back buckets by Paige McLachlan and Autumn Troxell to open the third period, but then the Eagles made a run. Clarke County used an 11-2 run to stretch its lead 34-18 with three minutes left in the frame. The Eagles led by no fewer than 15 points the rest of the way.

Clarke County, which shot only 27 percent from the field in the first half, saw an improved shooting effort over the final two quarters that saw the Eagles make 40 percent of their shots.

Eagles senior forward Anna Blue Catlett led the second-half charge for Clarke County’s offense, as she scored 13 of her game-high 19 points in the third and fourth quarters on the strength of three 3-pointers.

“We put a lot of pressure on their posts, which is often [Sydney] Chrane or Catlett,” Kelly said. “Even if they’re down low, they pop out. We knew they were going to do that. That first pass, we tried to deny the pass inside and it worked for the first two quarters, and then I think [Catlett] had a couple 3s in the corner and that kind of opened it up and hurt us a little bit.”

Clarke County struggled on offense early against the Wildcats, which allowed Warren County to hang around despite 16 first-half turnovers.

After trading buckets early, the Eagles used a 9-0 run to take a 13-4 lead into the second period while holding the Wildcats scoreless for the final six minutes of the frame.

Troxell broke Warren County’s scoring drought with a traditional three-point play early in the second period, and the Wildcats pulled within 18-12 following a pair of free throws by Samantha Schroyer midway through the quarter.

Clarke County closed the half with a 5-0 run to take a 23-12 lead into intermission.

Chrane finished with 14 points and eight rebounds for the Eagles, while Allison Hicks had nine points and Kolby Parrott eight points for Clarke County.

Troxell (seven rebounds) and Schroyer finished with 13 points apiece to lead Warren County. McLachlan chipped in four points and drew praise from Kelly for her defense after the loss.

“I thought Paige McLachlan played pretty well for a post inside,” Kelly said. “She did a nice job on defense. She only scores about three or four points a game but we had two posts out today for injury and she did it by herself, basically, against some pretty good ballplayers.”

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