Warriors make adjustments offensively, run away from Judges in second half

STEPHENS CITY – It was simply a case of Sherando High School’s girls basketball team making smarter shot choices and attacking the rim.

Those were the adjustments the Warriors made offensively after mustering only 8 points in the first period of Friday night’s Northwestern District matchup with visiting Handley. Those tweaks, plus a defense that limited the Judges to just 13 second-half points, powered Sherando’s 53-39 win.

The Warriors shot only 29 percent in the first half but responded by hitting 10 of 22 shots over the final two periods and, most importantly, outscored Handley by 14 in the second half to pull away after a halftime tie.

“I think we really just picked up the momentum and we were more aggressive, and we stopped trying to jack up threes and attack more,” said Warriors junior Ashton Clark, who had a game-high 16 points, five rebounds and three steals. “We were smarter with how we played basketball.”

Sherando (8-6, 5-3 Northwestern District) trailed 16-8 after an inefficient first period that saw the Warriors turn the ball over 11 times. The Warriors hit only 5 of 17 shot attempts in the second period, but they cut down the turnovers and scored a couple key buckets in transition to erase the early deficit.

With Handley (9-6, 4-4) holding a 19-9 lead early in the second period, Clark started a 7-0 Sherando run with a second-chance bucket, and the spurt ended when senior guard Amber Garrett swiped a steal and found Blake Conner for a layup.

Garrett knotted the score at the end of the first half when she hit a bucket in transition through contact and made the ensuing free throw to send the game into halftime tied 26-all.

“Our team really thrives off of fastbreak points,” said Garrett, who was 7-for-9 from the free throw line in the first half and finished with 11 points, eight rebounds and four steals. “That’s like our main thing, so it really helped when we got steals.”

Another senior, Marah Humphreys (12 points), gave Sherando its first lead of the night when she connected on a 3-pointer right out of the break before knocking down a pair of free throws for a 5-point Warrior lead.

Handley rallied to briefly regain a 36-35 lead on back-to-back buckets by Neysha Washington (8 points, five rebounds) and Miah Finley midway through the third period, but Sherando closed the quarter with an 11-0 run. Clark scored 3 points during the charge, Humphreys and Amber Strosnider each hit 3-pointers and Garrett scored a fastbreak layup in the closing seconds to cap a 20-point period that sent Sherando into the final frame with a 46-36 lead.

“We were patient and let the game come to us,” said Warriors head coach Mike Marsh, whose team played much of the game without Kathryn Robertson, one of the team’s top scorers and its leading rebounder, after the senior aggravated a knee bruise in the contest. “We’ve been really forcing the issue offensively and taking poor shots. Instead, we let the game come to us. The shots we took were fitting in the offense, they fit in the opportunities we had and we were more successful because of it.”

Sherando put the brakes on the game’s tempo in the fourth period. The Warriors scored only 7 points but held Handley to a lone 3-pointer in the frame, a Newman (team-high 11 points) bank shot from the wing with 5:30 left.

The Judges shot only 27.3 percent (15-for-55) from the floor in the loss and turned the ball over 20 times. Sherando had 13 steals and shifted between man-to-man and what Marsh called “combo defenses” before settling into a 2-3 zone in the third period.

“That’s been our calling card, really, is that we know we can crack down and play good defense,” said Marsh, adding that Sherando hasn’t played much zone this season. “Defense goes anywhere. We settled down and we played real solid defense. I’ll tell you, personally I put them in some situations that weren’t good and the girls played through them and then we got settled back down again. (Handley) cut back into our lead (in the third period) and the next thing you know, we settled down, the defense cracked down and we did a good job.”

Taylor Beard had 8 points (all in the first half) and eight rebounds for Handley, while Kiah McFarlane had 12 rebounds, four steals and a handful of blocks for the Judges.

Sherando returns to action next Tuesday with a home game against Fauquier.