Wildcats’ rally falls short in loss to undefeated Dragons

Cor'shauna Cunningham

FRONT ROYAL — Warren County had undefeated William Monroe on the ropes Tuesday night.

The Wildcats put together a fourth-quarter rally, but came up short in a 44-42 loss to William Monroe in Class 3 Northwestern District basketball action.

“We played hard,” Warren County senior center Cor’shauna Cunningham said. “I mean we did make our mistakes, but that’s something we can always work on and we try to work on it. But I feel like we had more hustle (Tuesday) than we did the last couple games. And I feel like we did pretty well.”

Cunningham played a big part in Warren County’s fourth-period rally as she had 8 of her 11 points in the final 8 minutes.

The Wildcats (7-12, 4-4 Class 3 Northwestern) trailed 38-30 entering the final period. Cunningham scored a basket inside the paint to start a 6-0 run for the Wildcats.

Bri Hogan

“The difference (in the fourth period) was that I was actually (stepping into) my shot instead of fading away from my shots, and trying to get us some points so we can be ahead.”

William Monroe’s Iyanna Carey scored on a driving layup to give the Dragons a 40-36 advantage with 4:17 left in the game.

Cunningham responded with back-to-back baskets to tie the game at 40 with 3:59 remaining.

The Dragons, who played most of the game without their top player, Sam Brunelle, due to an ankle injury, tried to slow the game down. William Monroe (20-0, 9-0, Class 3 Northwestern) passed the ball around and tried to limit possessions in the final minutes.

William Monroe’s Alexandra Whiteheart made two free throws with 2:10 left for a 42-40 lead. Cunningham again responded for the Wildcats with a basket to tie the game.

William Monroe’s Emma Pickett scored on a layup with 1:01 left. The Wildcats missed their final five shots, as the Dragons held on for the win.

William Monroe coach Jess Stafford said she was very happy with how her team responded to adversity, especially with Brunelle being out most of the game. Brunelle is ESPN’s top-ranked high school junior girls basketball player in the country.

“It is not the first time (we played without Brunelle),” Stafford said. “We played Brentsville a couple weeks ago where (Brunelle) didn’t play the whole second half. It was the same kind of situation. So they’re getting more used to it. They’re gaining more confidence with it. You want to pull one out for your teammate, too.”

Warren County had a big boost in the game from senior Ariana Lopez, who had a team-high 13 points.

Lopez hit three 3-pointers combined in the second and third periods to keep the Wildcats within striking distance.

“She came out ready to play,” Warren County coach Christine Simmons said of Lopez. “She was ready to shoot from her first shot. She missed the first one, but it was on, it wasn’t off by very much. And we told her, we said keep shooting it, and that’s exactly what she did. And that’s what we needed her to do, too. We need her to step up and score.”

The Wildcats had an early lead in the first period, but the Dragons went on an 8-2 run to lead 11-6 after the first period.

The game went back and forth in the second period, but the Dragons pushed the lead to as many as 13 points in the third period.

Brunelle, who finished with 12 points and 5 rebounds, suffered her ankle injury in the final seconds of the first period. She re-entered the game twice in the second period, but was limping noticeably and didn’t play in the second half.

William Monroe freshman Hailey Morris had 15 points to lead the Dragons.

Stafford said she was really pleased with the play of Morris and Carey, who are both freshman. The Dragons have no seniors on the team and have five freshman and three sophomores on their squad.

“I’m pretty excited looking at the progress of the program and the growth,” Stafford said. “They come in every day and work hard. And when you work hard you get to reap the rewards of that. So (Tuesday) we got to do that.”

Cunningham had 12 rebounds and Bri Hogan had 10 points for the Wildcats.

Simmons said that despite the loss, the Wildcats can take a lot of positives away from the game with the Dragons.

“They know that team is undefeated,” Simmons said. “They know they’re a good team, and they know they’re at the top. It’s unfortunate that they had a player get injured. Any time you can play with a team that you know is good that’s good for morale, regardless whether they have all their players in there or not.”