Sloppy first half dooms Wildcats against Colonels
FRONT ROYAL – Warren County’s girls basketball team jumped out to a quick lead against visiting James Wood Wednesday night, but then it got sloppy with the ball.
The Wildcats turned it over on eight straight possessions during a stretch in the opening period, allowing James Wood to erase its early deficit and roll to a 59-42 non-conference victory.
“I thought we beat ourselves in the first half,” Wildcats coach John Kelly said. “We must’ve had 15 turnovers easily in the first 10 minutes of the game. After that we started calming down. The second half we played much better but with having really young sophomore and junior guards, it’s a learning curve. It’s a steep learning curve for us right now. You can definitely see that part.”
Warren County (1-1) saw brief success from its perimeter shooting early in what would become an otherwise miserable offensive performance for the Wildcats, as back-to-back 3-pointers by senior Hayley Martin and junior Caile Broy countered an opening trey by Colonels junior Amanda Christian to give the Wildcats a 6-3 lead barely a minute into the game.
Warren County extended that lead to 4 points on a free throw by senior Sam Schroyer, but then James Wood (1-0) switched from man to a zone-trap defense that jumpstarted a 17-3 Colonels run – powered by Keiana Brooks’ 10 points – to close out the first period that featured nine Wildcat turnovers.
Colonels head coach Krista Crites said the trap is a new addition to James Wood’s defense this season.
“Changing the defense kind of kept them on their toes and they had to constantly change their game plan according to us, which is what I wanted,” Crites said.
James Wood took a 20-10 lead into the second period and extended that advantage to 18 points on multiple occasions, eventually taking a 35-17 lead into halftime.
Warren County hit just five field goals in the first half and ended the night with a 27.1-percent (13 for 48) shooting mark from the floor and 24 turnovers.
“One of those nights where you just kind of shake your head and think, ‘I hope that clock’s running a little faster,'” Kelly said.
The Colonels extended its lead to 21 points with three minutes remaining in the third period before Warren County went on a little run to cut James Wood’s lead back to 14 points. Nikki Roof got the 9-2 Wildcat run started with a pair of made free throws, and Nichole Rittgers followed with a 3-pointer from the wing. A baseline floater by Kima Robinson and two free throws by Rittgers pulled Warren County within 42-28 with 0:52 left in the third quarter.
Warren County’s defense limited James Wood to just 8 points in the third period.
“I thought we handled their pressure a lot better and actually put a lot of pressure on their two guards who did all the scoring for them early on,” Kelly said. “But then it opened up again.”
James Wood, which shot 30.4 percent (21 for 69) from the field in the win, quickly built its lead back up to 20 points early in the fourth quarter and the Wildcats never pulled closer than 15 points.
Rittgers led Warren County in scoring after coming off the bench in the third quarter, tallying 13 second-half points on the strength of a trio of 3-pointers. Broy had 8 points for the Wildcats, while Arianna Smoot (seven rebounds) and Martin (six rebounds) had 6 points apiece.
Brooks, who scored 9 points in the fourth period, led all players with 21 points to go along with four steals. Christian had 17 points and 11 rebounds for the Colonels, who held a 48-41 edge on the boards.
“We did a much better job rebounding in the third and fourth quarter,” Kelly said. “We were able to get out on their wings more and force them to put the ball on the ground and drive. But (Brooks) was able to drive the ball against us an awful lot. We’ve gotta find a way to answer to that. But we did a good job of stopping everyone else from scoring in the second half.”
Contact staff writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or email@example.com