Streett’s return to form playing a key role in Stonewall’s playoff run
QUICKSBURG – Sara Streett hears them often, the jokes from her Stonewall Jackson High School girls basketball teammates and coaches that address her sometimes “lazy” defensive effort.
The comments are all made in good fun – senior guard J.J. Dellinger said each General becomes the target of a friendly jab from time to time – but Streett openly admits that those jokes aimed specifically at her are steeped in truth.
“A lot of times I don’t like to sit down and play defense. I’ll stand straight up and then I get beat a lot, so there’s justification to it,” Streett said following practice on Tuesday evening. “But I can play defense when I put everything into it.”
The Stonewall senior proved as much last Friday night in the Region 1B tournament championship game against Appomattox Regional Governor’s School. Tasked with guarding ARGS star junior forward Jada Boyd throughout the contest, Streett’s defense drew praise from Generals head coach Jeff Burner following Stonewall’s 48-35 victory that gave the Generals their first regional title in 40 years.
Boyd, the Region 1B player of the year who entered regional championship game averaging 37 points per contest, finished with 30 points against the Generals, but Streett made the 6-foot-2 junior work for all of them. Boyd shot only 37.5 percent (12-for-32) from the floor and Streett, who batted down several passes intended for Boyd in the paint, ended the night with a team-high five steals.
“I think I proved to everyone that I can play defense, even though they doubt me all the time,” Streett said with a laugh. “I showed that I could play some defense, and so now that I’ve showed myself, I’m gonna have to keep doing it. … I mean we could see another Jada Boyd but we’re just preparing that I have to play some defense on some big girls, box out, rebound, sit down on defense. I just have to keep doing what I was doing.”
If there’s one thing Streett has learned during her four seasons on Stonewall’s varsity team, she said, it’s that you can beat most teams by playing sound team defense.
The Generals’ pesky man-to-man defense this season has been a major factor in the team’s playoff run, which continues with Friday’s Virginia High School League Class 1 state tournament quarterfinal matchup with Lancaster at Strasburg High School. Streett’s return to form has been another key component.
The senior was slowed at the start of the season while working her way back from a stress fracture in her left shin. Streett, who said she plays through the pain resulting from the injury every day, has not missed any games for the Generals this season but she was sidelined for six weeks before getting cleared only a couple days before Stonewall’s first game.
As a result, Streett’s offseason work was limited and she missed the first couple weeks of practice, meaning the entire 2017-18 campaign has been one big game of catch-up for the senior.
“It’s one of those things where she had to adjust to that,” Burner said of Streett, who is averaging around 7 points per game this winter after leading the Generals with 10.4 ppg last season, “and I really feel like probably with about five games left in the regular season is when we started to see the normal Sara again. It was like a whole process to get there again. And she even told me, ‘I really feel the best I’ve felt all along’ right around that stretch, and I think in the postseason she’s certainly stepped up her game a lot. I think that’s been one of the huge factors for us.”
Streett, in addition to stepping up her defensive game in last Friday’s victory, led the Generals with 14 points against ARGS, and she ranked third on the team in scoring (6.9 ppg), second in rebounding (6.7 per game) and tied for the team lead with 1.9 assists through the end of the regular season. On Monday, she was announced as a first-team All-Region 1B selection alongside Dellinger and Stonewall freshman point guard Kylene Franklin.
In Streett, the Generals have a player who’s nearly 6 feet tall with the ball-handling skills to take pressure off of Stonewall’s guards, Burner said, and a smart inbound passer who makes good decisions with the basketball.
Stonewall senior LuLu Funkhouser said Streett’s contributions run deeper than her statistical production and physical skill set, as well.
“She’s a very rough teammate like she’ll push us to our limits and she’ll tell us when we’re wrong,” Funkhouser said. “That’s what we like. She tells us how it is.”
Streett is just one in a core of six Stonewall seniors who endured on-court struggles early in their high school careers. During the 2014-15 season, when most of those current seniors were freshmen taking their lumps at the varsity level, the Generals won three games. Now Stonewall (13-13) is making its first state tournament appearance since 2007.
“I’ve cried after every game after I got home because it’s just crazy to think our freshman year, winning three games to now we’re going to states,” Streett said. “Everyone’s doubted us, I think. We would barely have any fans most games, and now everyone wants to come and everyone’s supporting us. It’s something I’m gonna cherish forever, knowing that we did it, we accomplished it.”
Streett’s high school basketball career is coming to a close, though she plans to continue playing at the college level with NCAA Division III member Randolph College next school year. Streett said she made her commitment to the WildCats’ coaching staff less than two weeks ago.
Before her high school career ends, however, Streett is hoping Stonewall, which won its only state title in 1978, can extend its playoff run for a few more games.
“I hope for some wins, that’s for sure. Keep going,” Streett said of the state tournament. “I know we can do it. I think we have everything we need.”