Sherando girls top James Wood in rematch

STEPHENS CITY – Thursday night’s girls basketball game between Sherando and visiting James Wood contained the sloppiness expected after a weeklong layoff due to the recent snowstorm. But Sherando senior Madison Leckie wouldn’t have had it any other way.

The Warriors created separation with a run late in the third period, then saw James Wood rally back midway through the fourth only to hit some key shots down the stretch to pick up a 51-43 win over their Northwestern District rivals.

The victory, which came on Sherando’s senior night, avenged the Warriors’ loss to the Colonels earlier this month and, more importantly, came in the matchup that counted toward seeding for the Conference 21A tournament in a couple weeks.

“It was a very important win for us, and it was a very, very team win,” Leckie said shortly after a brief ceremony honoring the Warriors’ four seniors following their victory, in which she scored 14 points. “This is probably the best team win on senior night I could ever ask for. It really means a lot.”

The offense, led by junior Davina Lane’s 21 points and 12 rebounds, improved for Sherando (11-6) as the game progressed – the Warriors shot 33.9 percent for the game after hitting just 25.8 percent of their field goals in the first half, and they began attacking the basket with more consistency over the final two periods – but it was the Warriors’ defense that likely made the biggest difference Thursday night. And much of that defense focused on Colonels (10-5) senior point guard Keiana Brooks, who erupted for 21 points in the two teams’ first meeting on Jan. 5.

“What was the difference in the game is we had to stop Brooks this time,” Lane said, “because Brooks scored most of their points in the game we played previously and we basically had to shut her down.”

Sherando did that on Thursday by playing what head coach Mike Marsh called “gadget defenses” – a box-and-one, a 3-2 zone with some wrinkles thrown in mixed with some straight man-to-man. Brooks finished with 10 points, six of which came in the fourth quarter.

“We knew that we had to keep her from penetrating, so no matter what we had someone in her face all the time,” said Marsh, whose team also held Colonels senior forward Grace Greene scoreless after she dropped 13 on Sherando earlier this month. “It kind of took her out of the game. … She’s a hard player to handle, so we had to find someway to keep her slowed down and I think we did a good job slowing her down tonight.”

Brooks’ first field goal of the night came with four minutes left in the third period, and she’d add a free throw 28 seconds later to give the Colonels a 28-26 lead. But Sherando held James Wood scoreless for nearly six minutes as a pair of buckets by Lane and another by senior Allison Combs helped fuel an 8-0 run that gave the Warriors a 34-28 lead with seven minutes to play.

James Wood countered when Brooks swiped a pair of steals that she turned into two fast-break layups on the other end to pull the Colonels within two with 5:24 remaining.

Leckie helped Sherando offset another Brooks layup with two baskets over the next 90 seconds to push the Warriors’ lead to 39-34, but the Colonels got a 3-pointer from Amanda Christian to pull back within two with 3:45 left.

A free throw each by Kathryn Robertson and Lane, followed by a pull-up jumper from the free-throw line by Kelli White (7 points, six rebounds), extended the Warriors’ lead to 6 points before James Wood – which hit 6 of 25 shots from beyond the 3-point arc – hit another trey, this one from Amber Wooldridge, to cut Sherando’s lead to 43-40 with 1:42 left.

Following a Sherando timeout, Lane converted a baseline layup off a give-and-go with White to put the Warriors up 5 with 1:18 remaining.

“We’re fighters and we really wanted to win,” Lane said. “It was our senior night so we really wanted to win for the seniors.”

Leckie put the game out of reach when she converted an open look in the paint off an assist from Tymber Minnick on the Warriors’ next possession before hitting two free throws that put Sherando up 49-40 with 37 seconds left.

Leckie scored 8 of her 14 points in the final five minutes of the game.

“I just had to get it done,” she said. “I just kept looking at that scoreboard going, ‘No, it’s not happening. It’s gonna get done.'”

Christian, who led the Colonels with 12 points on four 3-pointers, hit a very deep 3 from the wing with 29 seconds left to cut Sherando’s lead to 6 points but James Wood wouldn’t get any closer.

Sherando held James Wood to a 29.8-percent mark from the field in the game and forced 14 turnovers. Ten of those came in the first half, although the Warriors would go into halftime tied with the Colonels, 18-18.

The Warriors, who return to action tonight on the road at Millbrook for another conference/district rivalry, also held a 46-36 advantage in rebounds.

“We’re getting better and better each day,” Leckie said. “… There’s a lot of effort going on and it’s thriving through each other, and it’s very together.”

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