Falcons’ season ends with regional quarterfinal loss

EMPORIA – Central’s girls basketball coach Bryan Scott was able to get his hands on some game film of Greensville County prior to the teams’ showdown in the Region 2A East tournament quarterfinal Tuesday night. He said after the game that he probably wishes he hadn’t.

The Falcons were admittedly thrown off by Greensville County’s skill and athleticism Tuesday night, and repeated attempts at a rally by Central were met with immediate answers from the Eagles, who picked up a 64-51 home win to end the Falcons’ season.

The Eagles advance to Thursday’s semifinal round against Wilson Memorial.

“I definitely think the film we watched on them, they were a totally different team when we came out here,” Falcons junior forward Tamra Scott said. “Film kind of threw us off a little bit because they’re a good ball team.”

Tamra Scott proved to be a nuisance to Greensville’s 3-2 zone defense, as she finished with a game-high 22 points and 20 rebounds, but the Falcons’ offense didn’t produce enough success from the perimeter to keep pace with the Eagles (20-3). Central (21-4) shot just 32.2 percent in the loss and hit only 2 of 18 3-point attempts.

“That’s kind of been our Achilles (heel) all year,” Bryan Scott said of Central’s shooting woes. “I was hoping and praying that it wasn’t gonna be the night where it caught up to us, and I think tonight it did.”

Central, which led just once – late in the first period – in the entire game – trailed 30-23 at halftime but was able to rally to tie the game at 34-all midway through the third period with a 7-0 run that included two free throws from senior Brooklyn Pumphrey and five points from Tamra Scott on a pair of fast-break buckets and a free throw.

Greensville County came right with buckets on its next three possessions by Tia Eason, Taiquona Conner and Shaqua Powell, eventually pushing its lead to 49-38 with six minutes left in the fourth quarter with a 15-4 run that ended with Conner’s third 3-pointer of the night.

“That momentum right there was the key,” Eagles coach Sharon Manning said. “That really prevailed us over the hill. I’m so proud of them because I knew that (Central) had another run in them.”

The Falcons cut that deficit back to six points following senior Meredith Phillips’ baseline layup and senior Cianne Fields’ conventional 3-point play off a fast-break layup with 5:07 left, but Central wouldn’t get any closer than that the rest of the way.

Greensville County blew the game open with a 9-0 run, taking a 58-43 lead on Lenah Clements’ 3-pointer from the wing with 3:21 to play. Central turned the ball over three straight times during the Eagles’ run and had 18 in the game.

“Definitely turning the ball over in a close game like this is not good,” Tamra Scott said. “It’s definitely what lost us the game. Our turnovers, I think we kind of freaked out a little bit – the environment, the band, the cheerleaders, everybody was in our heads and stuff.”

Central’s cause was not helped when it caught a bad break early in the third period, as sophomore Ayanna Strother was charged with her fourth personal foul on a charging violation committed by Tamra Scott. The referee error forced the Falcons to play without Strother for over nine minutes of game action.

“She’s the second leading scorer on the team, the leader in steals on the team. I think she’s even my top assist leader, so when you take her out of the equation that changes our whole team a little bit,” Bryan Scott said of Strother, who finished with 4 points and two steals.

Fields finished with 14 points and three rebounds while Phillips chipped in 9 points, but Central mustered little consistency on offense outside of Tamra Scott, whose play drew praise from both her father and Manning.

“She’s got aspirations of playing at the next level and I think she can play at the next level, and I challenged her (at halftime). I said, ‘Show me that you can play at the next level,'” Bryan Scott said of his daughter. “She was under the weather a little bit tonight, she’s been running a fever, so I’ve gotta give it to her. She came to play tonight. I’m very proud of her, as a dad and a coach.”

Clements led Greensville County with 20 points and six rebounds, while Conner had 19 points, eight rebounds and five steals. Eason added 14 points and eight rebounds for the Eagles.

The Falcons held a 43-38 advantage on the boards.

Central was a win on Tuesday away from qualifying for its second state tournament appearance in the last three seasons, and though the Falcons came up short, Tamra Scott said the season was a victory in many ways.

“I’m not ashamed of the season at all,” she said. “We had a great record. … It’s definitely better than what we’ve had in the past, even when we went to states. I think we have a lot of things to keep our heads up, and everybody besides Cianne, (Phillips) and Brooklyn coming back, I think we’ll have a strong team as long as everybody practices in the offseason, comes back strong.”

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