Generals fall to Gladiators in conference semis

GREENVILLE — For the third time this season, Stonewall Jackson fought tooth and nail with Shenandoah District rival Riverheads and for the third time the Generals came up a little short.

Top-seeded Riverheads used a run in the third period to pull away with a 45-32 Conference 44 tournament semifinal victory over the fourth-seeded Generals.

The Gladiators beat the Generals by a combined eight points in their two meetings in the regular season.

“We didn’t play that bad,” Stonewall Jackson coach Jeff Burner said. “If we could have made a layup I think it could have been a different story. I thought we missed at least 8 to 10 (shots) inside the paint that were ducks. We talk all the time, especially on the road, any time in basketball you got to make layups and free throws. You make layups and free throws you win a lot of ballgames in high school.”

Both teams started off very slow as the Generals held a 4-3 lead after the first period. The two teams combined for two baskets and 2-for-17 shooting.

A basket by Stonewall Jackson’s LuLu Funkhouser gave them a 6-3 edge with 6:31 left in the first half. The Gladiators answered with a 12-1 run and led the rest of the contest. Riverheads’ Blake Bartley had two 3-pointers and Macey Snyder had one during the spurt.

Riverheads coach Tim Morris said his team hadn’t played in nine days and it showed at the start of the game.

“The one thing we did was we moved the basketball around, but we were a little bit too patient,” Morris said of the start. “And then once we really started getting in the flow of the offense I thought it really took off for us.”

The Gladiators (15-8) held a slim 17-12 lead at the half, and extended the lead to eight on a 3-pointer by Christa Arehart to start the third period.

The Generals (7-17) battled back with a 5-0 run to cut the lead to 20-17 with 4:51 left in the third quarter. Madison Long had three of the Generals’ five points.

Riverheads then went on a 7-0 run to build a double-digit lead for the first time in the game. Snyder hit a 3-pointer and was also fouled on another 3-point attempt and made two of the free throws during the spurt.

“The Snyder girl — that’s someone that we talk about all the time,” Burner said. “And we were late closing out on her a couple times and that hurt us.”

A 3-pointer by Long and a basket by J.J. Dellinger cut the lead to 27-22, but another Riverheads run gave them a nine-point lead after three periods. The Gladiators led by at least eight points throughout the fourth period.

Bartley led the Galdiators with a game-high 12 points and Arehart had 11.

Riverheads will host third-seeded Luray, another Shenandoah District rival, on Friday in the conference tournament final. Riverheads and Luray will both play in the Region 1A East tournament next week.

“It’s good for this group of seniors that we have that we’re going back-to-back,” Morris said of the regional berth. “We went last year and we get the opportunity to go back and we’re excited for that.”

Dodson led the Generals with 11 points and five rebounds. Long had six points and Funkhouser had four points, nine rebounds and four assists for Stonewall Jackson.

Burner said he’s enjoyed coaching the team’s four seniors — Long, Jessica Pechie, Emily Ball and Reganne Brinkley — and they’ve been great leaders for the team.

“I told my kids coming back that they were incredible role models for how to live your life,” Burner said of the seniors. “And I said if you aren’t willing to work hard after watching them, because not a lick of the four of them have any athletic ability, they just work hard and they’re good kids.”

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