Strother ignites fast start for Falcons in win over Hawks

Ayanna Strother

FRONT ROYAL — Slow starts have been costly for Central’s girls basketball team this season, but the Falcons reversed the trend on Monday night.

The Falcons were able to start off fast and eventually held on for a 42-39 win over Skyline.

Central senior guard Ayanna Strother scored 14 of her game-high 17 points in the first half to help the Falcons build a lead.

“I’m glad Ayanna came to play (Monday),” Central coach Bryan Scott said after the game. “I’m glad she did, because she kept us in it. Just when they were fighting to get back in it, it seemed like she would hit a big basket to keep us ahead.”

The Falcons (2-2) jumped out to a 20-8 lead with 5:33 left in the second period, and Strother had 12 of her team’s points.

Maria Marston

“I just try and provide for my team as much as possible,” Strother said. “We came out in the first half.”

The Hawks (1-1) scored the first two points of the game, but it was their only lead.

Central had trouble with Skyline’s full-court press and began turning the ball over, which helped lead to easy baskets for Skyline.

Central’s Kendall Herbaugh and Maria Marston  gave the Falcons a spark during the game. Herbaugh finished with seven points and 14 rebounds.

“You can’t outhustle her,” Scott said of Herbaugh. “There’s not a girl in this district that can outhustle her. She comes up with good rebounds and loose balls.”

Kendall Herbaugh

Marston finished with nine points, and hit a big 3-pointer early in the fourth period to give Central a 39-32 lead.

“Those were big shots because that builds her confidence,” Scott said of Marston. “I think she starts hitting some of those threes that builds her confidence. And it makes our team better — we kind of get confidence with her.”

Skyline shot 27.8 percent (15-for-54) from the field, but still had its chances at the end of the game.

Skyline’s Jordan Kenney hit a 3-pointer with 42 seconds left to cut Central’s lead to 41-39. The two teams traded turnovers before Strother was fouled with 15 seconds left.

Strother made 1-of-2 from the line to extend the lead with 15 seconds left.

“I try to not be nervous (at the free-throw line), because if I’m nervous I don’t feel like I’m going to make it,” Strother said. “But I tried to get at least one to put us up three. So that way at the most we would be tied and they wouldn’t win.”

The Hawks missed a 3-pointer in the final seconds and then after securing a rebound turned the ball over with less than a second left.

“As bad as we played you’re still only down three, and we can’t get a decent shot off,” Skyline coach Jim Kenney said. “We can’t get a decent shot off with 15 seconds left. It’s disappointing.”

Jordan Kenney led the Hawks with nine points. The Hawks were 4-for-10 from the free-throw line.

Jim Kenney said he wants his team to be more aggressive on offense, and they need to improve on the defensive end as well.

The Hawks have a young team with only three seniors. Jim Kenney said he still feels pretty good about what his team can accomplish this season.

“We’re going to get better,” Jim Kenney said. “I love the chemistry we have. These girls really enjoy playing with each other and they were really disappointed (Monday). When I went in the locker room after this game you could just see it. Because they realize that they squandered a really good opportunity to complete that comeback and win that game.”

Skyline hosts John Champe on Friday night in another non-district game

The Falcons play at Page County tonight. Central beat Page County, 54-41, last week for its first win of the season after an 0-2 start.

Scott said he saw flashes of really good play from his team Monday night, and they just have to put everything together for four quarters.

“I think if we keep working it’s going to come together,” Scott said. “We’re starting to get there, but we’re not there yet. And I hope it comes soon. And we’ll keep practicing and battling until it does.”