Skarupa guides Falcons to success in final season

Mallory Skarupa

WOODSTOCK — Not one player on Central’s girls basketball team had a driver’s license this season, so coach Mallory Skarupa decided to use that to her advantage.

On home game days the team would stay at school and hang out in Skarupa’s classroom. They watched film, they watched funny videos and inspirational videos, ate pre-game meals, and most importantly had some quality team bonding.

“I think they really liked that,” Skarupa said. “They get along really well on and off the court. I think those little team bonding experiences really showed as well.”

Central’s team chemistry showed and helped them to a very solid season, despite having a very young team.

The Falcons had no seniors and only two juniors. Maybe more importantly, Central only returned four players from last year’s squad that advanced to the Group 3A state semifinals.

Skarupa, the Northern Virginia Daily’s 2015 Girls Basketball Coach of the Year, resigned as coach after the season ended but certainly made the most of her final season as coach. The Falcons went 17-8, and their 16-6 regular season record was the program’s best in a number of years.

Skarupa said a hand injury to the team’s leading scorer, Tamra Scott, in the offseason may have been a blessing in disguise. Skarupa said it forced Scott to learn to use both hands, and become a better ball-handler. It also forced other players to step up.

“We were without [Scott] for fall league. And we played the fall league in Winchester and just got our rear ends handed to us a couple days,” Skarupa said. “But it was good because it humbled us, and taught us that if we wanted to get back to where we were last year that we needed to put some things together. It forced some other girls to become scorers, and that’s one thing that we really wanted to focus on this year was having that offense more spread out. I think towards the end of the season we definitely accomplished that.”

One of two juniors on the team, forward Brooklyn Pumphrey said that Skarupa talked to her and classmate Cianne Fields about being leaders, and helping out some of the younger players on the squad.

Pumphrey said Skarupa, who is also her girls tennis coach, does a great job of motivating the team before each game.

“Before every away game she’d write us these words on a sheet of paper, and be like you need to do this and you need to do this,” Pumphrey said. “She would just give us like this huge motivational speech before the game, which really helped because it just got us in game mode. We were ready to go.”

Skarupa gave a lot of credit to her assistant coach Sarah Swartz, who also resigned at the end of the season.

“Sarah and I work together really well,” Skarupa said of Swartz. “She’s my best friend. She does anything for us, for the program. We both think along the same lines, always have the team’s best interests, and we want to do what’s best for the girls at all times.”

Skarupa said her goal for her teams is always to play together as a team, and she said she was very happy that this year’s squad did that.

“We really tried to emphasize that team philosophy — everyone playing together like five fingers as a fist,” Skarupa said. “I always give them the metaphor you can knock somebody out with a fist or you can slap somebody, which is going to be more forceful? So you need to stick together, and they really bought into that.”

The Falcons finished third in the Bull Run District, behind two very strong teams in Clarke County and George Mason. Central came up short against Loudoun Valley in the Conference 28 semifinals, but with every player expected back Skarupa said she expects big things from them next season even though she won’t be coaching.

Skarupa said she decided after Christmas she needed to take some time away from coaching and all the demands that go with it for personal reasons.

She said she’s enjoyed coaching the team for the last three seasons, and is very happy with where the program is at right now.

“It’s been a blast,” Skarupa said. “I’ve been very blessed and fortunate to have this opportunity. The community support we’ve been given, especially last year with the playoff run, was awesome.

” … It’s been fun.”

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