Central defense stops visiting Lee

Central's Tamra Scott goes up for a shot under the basket in heavy traffic during the Region 2A East quarterfinals against Robert E. Lee on Friday night in Woodstock. Rich Cooley/Daily
Central's Ayanna Strother is fouled by Robert E. Lee's Alexiah Hall as she drives to the basket during Region 2A East quarterfinals held Friday night in Woodstock. Rich Cooley/Daily
Central's Meredith Phillips is fouled by Robert E. Lee's Amber Johnson, at right, as she drives in the lane during Region 2A East quarterfinals held Friday night in Woodstock. Rich Cooley/Daily
Central's Ayanna Strother jumps to catch a pass as Robert E. Lee's Peyton Hicks tries to intercept during Region 2A East quarterfinals held Friday night in Woodstock. Rich Cooley/Daily
Central's Tamra Scott is fouled by Robert E. Lee's Jesse Bartley, right, during a Region 2A East first round game held Friday night in Woodstock. Central will play at Greensville County on Tuesday in the regional quarters with a state berth on the line. Rich Cooley/Daily
Central's Brooke Sager has her shot rejected by Robert E. Lee's Alexiah Hall during Region 2A East quarterfinals held Friday night in Woodstock. Rich Cooley/Daily

WOODSTOCK – Central coach Bryan Scott switched to a man-to-man defense in the second half of the Falcons’ 56-42 victory over Robert E. Lee-Staunton on Friday and it made all the difference in the first round game of the region 2A East tournament played at Jerry Walters Court.

Playing before a boisterous home crowd and with a lot of physical play, not only did the Falcons (21-3) give up just 13 or fewer points in each of the four quarters of the girls’ basketball game, but they held the visiting Lee Ladies to no field goals for about six minutes of the fourth quarter.

“Defense is something we work on all the time in practice,” said Central’s Brooklyn Pumphrey, who hit a key 3-point shot in the second half.

“Coach always says defense wins for you,” added teammate Ayanna Strother. “Doesn’t matter what’s going on. You play good defense and you can win.”

Central, which last played in a second-round regional game in 2013-14, will play at Greensville High School on Tuesday.

The semifinals for the region will be Thursday and the championship game comes Saturday at Orange County High School.

“We’re very excited. We started out good with our press, but I guess they figured it out or whatever. We got a little sloppy with the ball in the second quarter,” said Coach Scott. “I wanted to go to man earlier, but we had a couple players with two fouls, so I bought us some time with a zone. (Lee) shot the ball better than what I had scouted. But when we went to man in the second half, it seemed to slow them down.”

Central got double-figure scoring from four Falcons. Meredith Phillips and Ayanna Strother each had 14 points, while Cianne Fields and Tamra Scott added 10 apiece.

“This was a real team win,” said Coach Scott. “We had people come off the bench who hadn’t been playing who played well.

“I was particularly impressed with Brooke Sager. She’s been hurt a little bit and tonight I told her we needed her.”

Sager contributed 6 points in the critical third period.

Kemper Snyder came off the bench to score 12 points for Lee, which finishes the season at 14-11.

Bryan Scott opened with a fullcourt zone press and it was effective. The Falcons forced four turnovers and began with an 11-2 record.

However, the aggressive defense also caused the home team to foul. Both Phillips and Tamra Scott picked up two fouls apiece in the first period.

Lee scored 10 straight points to go ahead 12-11 as the first quarter came to an end.

The Lee Ladies continued their streak when their Amber Johnson hit a 3-pointer from above the key. Lee, which had trailed by nine, now led by 4.

Erika Thorpe’s basket represented the first points for Central since the 3:23 mark of the first quarter. Phillips’ two free throws tied it at 15.

Three straight lead changes moved the Falcons ahead by one to end the half.

A Phillips 3 and a steal and basket by Fields opened up a 24-20 third-period lead for the home team, but the visitor got it back to 25-24 with 4:30 left in the third quarter.

From there, Central outscored Lee 9-2 to take a commanding, 34-26 lead with 1:15 to go in the third.

Pumphrey’s 3-point shot with 7:05 left in the game kept the lead at 8 for Central.

“Coach told me to stop at the foul line extended and hunt for a shot. Cianne Fields got me the ball and I put it in,” said the senior.

Lee knocked down four of six free throws to get within four; then Central started going to the foul line.

In particular, Tamra Scott went two of six from the charity stripe and then Strother made three of six to keep Lee at bay.

“(Strother) didn’t make all of them, but she made enough,” said Coach Scott.

“Well, she’s one of my guards and so she had the ball a lot. I don’t think they meant to foul her intentionally,” said Coach Scott.

“When I get to the foul line, I just try to block everything out. The playoffs didn’t add any extra pressure,” said Strother.

Meanwhile Lizzie Snyder (11 points) drilled a jumper to open the fourth quarter for the Lee Ladies. The score then was 36-31, Central.

But that would be the last field goal until Snyder knocked in a 3-pointer to make it 50-38 Falcons.

Lee scored two more meaningless field goals as Central went to the line.

At the game’s close, the student section “Nest” swamped the Falcons on the floor.

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