Generals ready to face rival Gladiators in regional semifinal

Stonewall Jackson's head coach Jeff Burner makes a point to his bench during second quarter action in the Region 1B tournament quarterfinals in Quicksburg on Monday night. The Generals host Riverheads tonight in the regional semifinals. Rich Cooley/Daily

QUICKSBURG — Stonewall Jackson’s girls’ basketball team is one win away from a Class 1 state berth and standing in the way is a familiar opponent.

The second-seeded Generals host Shenandoah District rival and third-seeded Riverheads tonight in the Region 1B tournament semifinals and the winner advances to the state tourney. Stonewall Jackson and Riverheads split its two regular-season meetings.

“We’re very similar to each other, very similar styles, very similar personnel,” Stonewall Jackson coach Jeff Burner said. “So it will be a slober knocker. It has been the other two games.”

In the regular season, Stonewall Jackson won 44-43 at home on Dec. 15. Riverheads returned the favor by beating the Generals, 47-39, on Jan. 19.

Burner said in the loss to Riverheads, the Generals had a 3-point lead and the ball with a little over three minutes left before the Gladiators rallied.

“They made enough plays to win it down there, and we made enough up here to win it,” Burner said.

Stonewall Jackson senior Sara Streett said that a key to the game will be controlling the pace. Streett said the Generals need to slow the tempo down against the Gladiators.

Streett said that the Generals know what to expect against the Gladiators.

“They’re aggressive, they’re very aggressive,” she said. “They like to take it to the hole. They like to shove, grab. They play very aggressive and sometimes I think that scares us, but having a day to prepare I think really helps us so we know what we’re getting into.”

The Generals (11-13) beat Rappahannock County, 47-37, in Monday’s Region 1B quarterfinals, while Riverheads (9-15) beat William Campbell, 63-35.

Streett said playing at home against Riverheads could be a big advantage.

“Having a home game is nice,” she said. “We’re pretty decent at home. We have a pretty good record here. So we like playing at home a lot.”

Stonewall Jackson junior Emily Dodson said that the team this year has great chemistry, which has helped a lot.

“I have a lot of confidence in this team and in every player,” Dodson said. “We have each other’s back — it’s like a sisterhood. We work together.”

The Generals have battled through injuries and illness this season, but are finally healthy again.

Dodson missed a week due to the flu a few weeks ago and said that Monday’s game (15 points) was the best she has played since coming back.

The 5-foot-11 forward Dodson said she has focused her game on playing inside the paint, instead of settling for jumpers like she used to.

“I mainly work on my post game, because I know I can make those,” Dodson said. “When I get the chance to shoot the 3 I’ll shoot it, but I mainly want to stay underneath and get the easy points and try to rebound when everybody shoots.”

The Generals also played several games without starting freshman point guard Kylene Franklin due to a concussion. Monday’s game was her first day back, after being out for two weeks. Burner said that he felt having Franklin back out on the court made a big difference for the team.

Stonewall Jackson has six seniors on the squad, and Burner said it’s really nice to see them have a chance to play for a state berth.

“For them to (win three games) their freshman year, and every year they’ve gotten better and better and better,” Burner said. “And then obviously this group of freshman that we’ve added have helped make us dynamically better, athletically. And so I’m happy for them that they’re getting a chance to do this.

“I’m always grateful to the players when we get a chance to play in big games because they’re fun to coach too.”

Monday’s win in the Region 1B semifinals was Stonewall Jackson’s first regional victory since 2012. A victory tonight would give the Generals their first state tournament berth since 2007.

Streett said that it’s very exciting to know how close the team is to a state berth.

“It’s crazy,” Streett said. “It’s like Burner says from our freshman year, we would have never thought we would have been able to be in this position. And it’s amazing. It’s undescribable how it feels.”