Hot-shooting Bulldogs too much for Generals
LURAY – Stonewall Jackson kept its game with Luray close for the first period on Friday night, but then the hot-shooting Bulldogs took over.
Third-seeded Luray’s blistering shooting helped it pull away for a 68-23 Conference 44 tournament quarterfinal win over the sixth-seeded Generals.
“We played really well tonight,” Luray coach Chris Ponn said. “You can’t take anything away from the girls. We shot the ball like we’re capable of shooting the ball. If we can do that and be successful, we can do pretty well.”
The Generals (6-17) played a competitive game with the Bulldogs on Tuesday, and were only down by four points entering the final period. It looked like it might be more of the same at the start of Friday’s contest.
Both teams struggled to hit shots. Stonewall Jackson’s Kelsey Kokkonen hit a layup in the opening minute. Luray’s Meghan Seaman hit a 3-pointer with 6:07 left in the first period. Stonewall Jackson’s Sara Streett hit a free throw to tie the game, and then teammate LuLu Funkhouser hit a basket to give the Generals a 5-3 edge with 2:04 left in the first period.
It would be Stonewall Jackson’s last lead of the game. The Bulldogs were able to attack the basket and get to the free-throw line. Michaela Nichols and Katelyn Keyser combined to make six free throws to give the Bulldogs a 9-5 lead after the first period.
“We were trying to play some junk (defense), and it worked really well the other night,” Stonewall Jackson coach Jeff Burner said. “But I sort of rolled the dice the other night, because if we would have won the other night then we would have jumped out of that part of the bracket. They were prepared. It worked for the first quarter, because we threw in a couple of different wrinkles this time and I think it threw them off.”
That changed in the second period as the Bulldogs began to hit shot after shot after shot. Luray shot 7.7 percent (1-for-13) from the floor in the opening period, but shot 50 percent in the second period (8-for-16).
The Bulldogs (13-10) went on a 12-6 run to start the period to build a 23-13 edge with 2:03 left in the first half. A basket by Stonewall Jackson’s Emily Ball cut the lead to 21-13, but the Bulldogs ended the half with an 8-3 run, including back-to-back 3-pointers by Keyser and Seaman.
The Bulldogs hit 11 3-pointers in the game, with five different players hitting at least one.
“They just shot so well,” Burner said. “They had so many kids hit 3’s That’s tough for us. We were trying to negate their athleticism with some stuff, and if they hit shots from that many kids we’re in trouble. They had a lot of kids hit shots.”
It was more of the same in the second half. The Generals made only one basket in the second half, and had a stretch where they went almost 13 minutes without a basket.
“We’ve struggled to score all year. That’s been our thing,” Burner said. “We do what we can, and we tried to make some adjustments to try to cover those mistakes. When you don’t hit shots it doesn’t matter.”
While the Generals were struggling, the Bulldogs were hitting almost everything in sight. Luray shot 50 percent (15-for-30) in the second half.
The Bulldogs finished the game shooting 40.7 percent (24-for-59).
“Like I said all along, if we make our open shots we are really good,” Ponn said. “Tonight was an indicator of it. We just made shots.”
The Bulldogs had good balance with three players in double figures. Seaman had 23 points, while Keyser added 17 and Nichols had 14.
Luray plays at second-seeded Riverheads, another Shenandoah District foe, on Tuesday in the Conference 44 tournament semifinals. Luray swept both regular season meetings with Riverheads.
“Once again it’s just unfortunate that we have to play each other,” Ponn said of Riverheads. “We fight all season long, and then we have to turn around and play each other again (in the conference semifinals). It’s just unfortunate that one team is going to have to go home. Whatever team shows up, will be the team that wins.”
Streett led the Generals with 10 points and four rebounds.
The Generals season comes to an end, but the young team did make strides after winning only three games in the last two years combined and picked up six victories.
Burner said he will miss his two seniors – Cheyanne Green and Kokkonen.
“I think (Green) has grown as a player and I think the biggest thing that I’ve liked is that she’s become a better leader this year,” Burner said. “Then Kelsey Kokkonen – I can’t even begin to tell you just how awesome it is to see what she’s done as a person. That’s the cool thing about both these seniors. They’re about 200 times the people that they are basketball players. I feel like it’s been my privilege to coach them, not the other way around that’s for sure. They’ve just been great kids.”
Contact staff writer Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 168, or firstname.lastname@example.org