R-MA advances to DAC tourney final

FRONT ROYAL — Randolph-Macon Academy’s girls basketball team reached one of its goals Thursday by advancing to the Delaney Athletic Conference tournament final for the third time in the last four years. Now the team wants to take things one step further and win the title.

The top-seeded Yellow Jackets dominated Quantico High School on the boards and with a strong defense in Thursday’s DAC semifinal, 40-26. The Yellow Jackets play Saint Michael in the final on Saturday at Highland School at 2 p.m.

“I feel like we were confident going in, because we always go to the championships and win second,” R-MA junior Julia Norton said. “So this year we’re ready to stop that and just be first place.”

Both teams started off sluggish Thursday, but the Yellow Jackets were able to take a 9-6 lead after the first period. R-MA sophomore Lily Ruch, who transferred from Skyline High School this year, had five points in the first eight minutes.

A steal and a layup by R-MA freshman Liana Trupiano extended the lead to 11-6, but the Warriors put together a run. Quantico went on a 6-2 run to cut the lead to 13-12 with 5:30 left in the first half.

The Yellow Jackets (13-6) then turned to their defense to build a lead. Trupiano had two steals and layups during a 12-0 run to give R-MA a 21-13 edge with 2:45 left in the second period.

“I was denying the ball which means that I was guarding the open player, the one that didn’t have the ball,” Trupiano said. “I was just looking for that easy steal, a bad pass from the other team.”

Trupiano took advantage of Quantico’s guard play with nine steals in the game.

R-MA coach Jeff Moxie said the Yellow Jackets used a box-and-one on Quantico point guard Kathryn Kelley, who scored only two points.

“We put pressure on the other guards,” Moxie said. “It affected them. They had to be the ball handlers.”

Quantico (3-13) turned the ball over 25 times in the game, including 15 in the first half.

R-MA also out-rebounded Quantico, 59-23, including 32-11 in the second half.

“Most of the games we dominate the boards,” Moxie said. “It’s one of the things we worry about is boxing out, winning the boards, and running the fast break because we need to get the layups.”

Norton led the Yellow Jackets with 19 rebounds, and said the team gets some help from the boys team.

“We do a lot of drills, and we have the guys team help us,” Norton said. “So it’s really helpful, because they’re taller and better than us.”

The Yellow Jackets led 25-14 at the half. A basket by Quantico’s Makayla Baker cut the lead to 25-16 to start the third period, but a 3-pointer, and another steal and layup by Trupiano and a basket by Norton helped extend the lead to 14 points. The Yellow Jackets led by at least double-digits the rest of the way.

“I felt like we played well,” Trupiano said. “We did make some careless errors and there’s definite room for improvement, but overall I think we had some really good plays going on, some really nice shots.”

R-MA has a young team with only two seniors and two juniors with four sophomores and three freshmen.

The Warriors were led by Chyann Fox with 10 points.

Trupiano had 13 points and six rebounds to go with her nine steals to lead R-MA. Norton had eight points and five steals to go with her 19 rebounds. Ruch had seven points and 16 rebounds, despite limited playing time, and due to foul trouble Kimmie Pitts added eight points and 12 rebounds for R-MA.

R-MA split with Saint Michael during the regular season. The Yellow Jackets won at home, 48-40, and lost on the road, 42-34.

Norton said that she believes this year’s team is closer than the last year’s team and is ready to win the title. She said Saint Michael is always a tough opponent for the Yellow Jackets.

“The games are really aggressive, so probably try not to foul,” Norton said of the keys to beating Saint Michael. “Just have a nice polite game, and just do well and keep a fast pace. I feel like there’s more intensity in this game because we’re really into it. We’ve been back and forth with them. They’ve won one and we won one, so this is the final match.”

Contact staff writer Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 168, or tkeeler@nvdaily.com