Falcons use strong defense to run away from Rams

Central's Tamra Scott goes up under the basket as Strasburg Carey Scott, right, gets a hand on the ball and teammates Daniella Henry, left, and Haley Bischoff, assist during second quarter action on Friday night in Woodstock. Rich Cooley/Daily

WOODSTOCK – Central High School sophomore Ayanna Strother says the Falcons’ girls basketball team always puts defense before offense in practice. They used that defense to run away from rival Strasburg during Friday night’s home game.

Using primarily a full-court 1-2-2 zone press and half-court man-to-man, Central forced the Rams into 29 turnovers in a 56-24 rout in Conference 35/Bull Run District action.

“I’ve been preaching it, but that’s why we go. When our defense is playing tough and making steals we are a very good team,” Falcons first-year coach Bryan Scott said. “… We may not be the best shooting team from the outside but we get a lot of transition baskets. When we do that we’re pretty good.”

Strasburg (6-9, 2-2 Conference 35) compounded its offensive woes by shooting only 21.3 percent (10 for 47) from the floor in the loss while failing to score more than 8 points in any period. The Rams fell behind 12-0 to start the game after going nearly seven minutes without a bucket.

“I think we played about as bad as we could play in all aspects,” Rams coach Darin Jenkins said. “It wasn’t one person. It wasn’t a couple people. It was all of us. It just seemed like we never could get that one or two possessions where we settled down long enough where we could get a good shot. We’d either turn the ball over or we’d fire up something that we shouldn’t have shot.”

Central's Brooklyn Pumphrey, left, and Meredith Phillips, right, put pressure on Strasburg's Cortney McDonald as she attempts a shot in the lane during first quarter action on Friday night in Woodstock. Rich Cooley/Daily

Not known for its perimeter shooting, Central (12-1, 3-1) started the night with some rare success beyond the 3-point arc, as seniors Meredith Phillips and Brooklyn Pumphrey sank back-to-back treys on the Falcons’ first two possessions of the game. A fast-break layup by Strother, another 3-pointer by Pumphrey and a free throw by Cianne Fields gave Central a 12-0 lead before senior Kelsey Jenkins broke Strasburg’s dry spell with a deep jumper from the wing with 1:10 left in the opening period.

“It was nice not to hear The Mountain in our ear, people yelling at us,” said Strother, referring to Strasburg’s student section. “It was nice to be winning from the jump.”

Central ended the night with four 3-pointers, including three from Pumphrey (10 points), while shooting 38.1 percent (24 for 63) from the field.

“Overall we did shoot the ball better than we have in previous games, especially early on,” Scott said. “Brooklyn knocked down a couple big 3’s. I’m glad to see her start going. That’s the second good game for her back-to-back. She’s a big part of our team and when she does good we do good.”

The Rams briefly cut into Central’s 14-2 lead to pull within eight points after a bucket inside by Daniella Henry and another deep jumper from Jenkins (team-high 9 points) early in the second period, but the Falcons closed the half on an 11-3 run to take a 25-9 lead into halftime.

Central's Erika Thorpe, left, and Kendall Herbaugh, center, struggle with Strasburg's Debra Dillman for ball possession during second quarter action on Friday night in Woodstock. Herbaugh was charged with a foul on the play. Rich Cooley/Daily

Central forced 12 turnovers in the second period, which turned into four fast-break layups for the Falcons during its run to end the quarter.

“Our score was very low at halftime so I feel like defense really did carry us,” said Strother, who had three steals to go along with her game-high 14 points.

“We did the best in man. Usually we don’t really do that well in man, we usually play a really strong 3-2 zone. But today we played a really strong man because they had a lot of good shooters.”

Central’s lead hit 25 points with 2:15 to play in the third period when the Falcons began using its reserve players. The Falcons led 40-17 to start the fourth and out-scored the Rams 16-7 over the final eight minutes.

Central finished with four players in double digits, as Phillips had 11 points and six rebounds and Tamra Scott had 10 points and eight boards.

Central's Tamra Scott converts on a layup while Strasburg's Kelsey Jenkins attempts to defend during second quarter action on Friday night in Woodstock. Rich Cooley/Daily

Haley Bischoff led Strasburg with nine rebounds to go along with six second-half points. Hannah Alexander added 4 points for the Rams.

Both teams finished with 37 rebounds.

Central returns to action on Tuesday with a pivotal Conference 35 road game at George Mason, which dealt the Falcons their lone loss of the season back on Dec. 16.

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

Central's Cianne Fields loses the ball as she goes up for a layup while Strasburg's Daniella Henry, center, and Olivia Gochenour defend during first quarter action on Friday night in Woodstock. Rich Cooley/Daily