Defense key for Falcons during five-game winning streak

Bailey Gale Rich Cooley/Daily

WOODSTOCK — During Central’s winning streak one thing has been constant — a stifling defense.

The Falcons’ girls basketball team has won five straight games and six of their last seven, including a 37-22 Bull Run District victory over Madison County on Tuesday.

“What we’ve been doing is playing good defense,” Central coach Bryan Scott said. “It carried over again (Tuesday). We didn’t have as good of offense has we have been, but we played good sound defense. Sometimes that takes care of your lack of offense.”

In Central’s last seven games, the Falcons have allowed just 31.7 points per contest. They did not give up more than 40 points during that stretch.

“Our defense is what we always focus the most on in practice,” Central senior Ayanna Strother said. “It’s what wins games. So we always have to have a strong defense, because defense ultimately wins games. Even if the offense is down we can stop the other team from scoring.”

Ayanna Strother

Central (10-8, 4-2 Bull Run) mostly uses a 3-2 zone, which causes a lot of problems for opposing teams.

Scott said it’s how active the Falcons are in the zone that makes life difficult for opponents.

“I think it’s when we start trapping in the corners, that’s key to us being successful,” Scott said. “Then again we got pretty good size up top with Kendall (Herbaugh) getting in those passing lanes on the wings.”

Scott said sophomore Maria Marston is also a big part of the 3-2 zone defense.

“She’s not the quickest person, but her wing span is unreal,” Scott said of Marston. “She seems constantly to get her arms in that passing lane and deflect the passes. So that’s probably another big key.”

The defense was a big factor against the Mountaineers, who didn’t score 10 or more points in any of the four periods Tuesday. Madison County shot 23.7 percent (9-for-38) from the field and had 25 turnovers against the Falcons.

While Central’s defense was in top form the offense got a big spark from senior guard Bailey Gale.

Gale scored 12 points, including hitting two 3-pointers in the opening period for the Falcons.

“I don’t usually shoot much, but I’ve been starting to come out of my shell more and take some jump shots,” Gale said. “I just realized that as a senior this year I really need to step it up. In years past I’ve always kind of followed behind everybody else, but I realized I really have to step it up and be a leader this year.”

Scott said Gale has been shooting the ball well lately, and he’s been very glad to see her stepping up.

“When the offense is set and we’re moving the ball, she’s left wide open sometimes,” Scott said. “I think some teams forget about her. And she’s worked hard this year. She’s a player that’s kind of came along, kind of sat on the bench. But she impressed me this year coming into the beginning of the season. And being a senior she’s definitely stepped up her game. So I commend her for that.”

The Falcons led from start to finish against Madison County and the win avenged a loss to the Mountaineers earlier this season.

Strother had 12 points, 4 rebounds and 5 steals for the Falcons, while Marston added 7 points and 9 rebounds.

Central hosts Rappahannock County on Saturday.

After a slow start to the season, the Falcons may be peaking at just the right time.

“I think a lot of people doubted us at the beginning of the season,” Gale said. “We started off really shaky. But I really feel that if we keep playing the way are playing now, and do even better, I think we can go far in the playoffs.”