Stellar defense helping Generals to successful season
QUICKSBURG — Stonewall Jackson has been led all season by its stifling defense. On Monday night the Generals put together their most impressive half of the year.
The Generals held Page County to only 9 points and only three field goals in the second half to rally for a 45-37 Shenandoah District girls basketball victory.
“We played awesome defense,” Stonewall Jackson senior J.J. Dellinger said. “Holding them to just 9 points in the second half — that’s huge.”
The Generals (10-10, 6-8 Shenandoah) run the same pack-line, man-to-man defense that the University of Virginia’s men’s basketball team uses. Stonewall Jackson girls basketball coach Jeff Burner said he has run the same defense since 2002.
It worked like a charm in the second half against Page County. The Panthers shot 16.7 percent (3-for-18) from the field in the second half.
Burner said the key was controlling the tempo.
“I thought there were two or three stretches in the first half where we were going up and down,” Burner said. “And I thought in the first 2 1/2 minutes in the second half we got a little crazy and were going up and down. Then we slowed down and we played at our tempo and that was the difference in the game. Because once it became a grind-out that’s what we do. And we’re really good at grinding things out.”
Another key in the victory was the defense of Stonewall Jackson’s LuLu Funkhouser. The 5-foot-4 senior guard was matched up with Page County’s Lauren Williams. When the two teams played on Dec. 18 (a 55-48 Page County win), Williams had 27 points.
Williams had 7 points in the first period on Monday night, but Funkhouser held her to just 3 points the rest of the way. Williams hit a deep 3-pointer with 2:29 left in the opening period, and Funkhouser said she knew then that she had to adjust how she was playing her.
“I just had to play closer to her,” Funkhouser said. “I knew when she hit that 3 pretty far out that I needed to be so close to her that I could touch her.”
Page County’s Lyndsey Knowles scored inside the paint for a 30-20 lead with 7:42 left in the third period.
The Panthers (9-10, 6-8 Shenandoah) would not make another basket for the next 11 minutes and 38 seconds. The Panthers missed eight straight shots and turned the ball over 10 times during that stretch.
“We frustrate them a little bit,” Dellinger said of the way the Generals play defense. “And they drive in and kind of get crazy with their shots and it helps us.”
The Generals slowly chipped away at the lead. Dellinger had a 3-pointer and freshman Sarah Streett came off the bench to hit two big baskets in the third period as the Generals cut the lead to 31-29 after three quarters.
Burner said he was very happy with the way his bench played against the Panthers.
“We had the sequence toward the end of the second quarter where we had all subs in there,” Burner said. “And Sarah (Streett) made a good play to to sort of force (Sarah Southers) into a dribble. Kelsey (Hines) played perfect helpside to stop the drive. And then they kicked it and Eli (Dellinger) closed out on the shooter beautifully. And all they got was a wild runner. But those were the type of things that are kids were doing the whole night.”
The Generals took the lead, 33-32, for the first time on a basket by J.J. Dellinger with 6:04 left and led the rest of the game.
Stonewall Jackson was able to dominate on the boards in the second half, which Burner said was another big factor in the win.
“That’s the other big part is you got to limit people to one shot,” Burner said. “You didn’t want to give up too many opportunities. I thought the first half we gave up too many offensive rebounds.”
The win gives the Generals 10 wins for the first time since 2012.
Williams led the Panthers with 10 points.
J.J. Dellinger led the Generals with 15 points and 13 rebounds. Senior Sara Streett had 10 points and 6 rebounds for Stonewall Jackson.
Funkhouser said the game was one of Stonewall Jackson’s best defensive performances and they need to build on it.
“Finally we have our team playing the defense we want,” Funkhouser said. “And now we need to get the offense the way we want. But as long as we keep that defense we can win games. We can keep going.”