Final Four: Generals excited, ready to face Surry County in state semis
QUICKSBURG — Stonewall Jackson girls basketball team had a little extra help at practice Monday.
Coach Jeff Burner decided to have some of the junior varsity boys basketball team go up against the girls team for practice.
The Generals play Surry County in the Class 1 state semifinals at Strasburg at 7 p.m. tonight. Burner said he expects Surry County to use a full-court press defense against the Generals and he wanted to try to simulate some of that by using the JV players in Monday’s practice.
“It just creates more speed of game, so that they get used to playing with faster and longer people,” Burner said.
The Generals (14-13) have seen full-court press defenses throughout the season, and the players said they feel like they will be ready for it.
“Our whole season playing (Class 2) schools, most of them press and they were good at it,” Stonewall Jackson senior Sara Streett said. “It definitely helps, we’re well-perpeared for the press. We’ve gone against great teams that have great presses.”
The Cougars (27-2) won the Region A title and have won 11 straight games. Surry County is averaging 58.8 points per contest, while allowing just 35 points per game.
Surry County is led by Jasmyn Pierce. The 5-foot-8 junior guard scored her 1,000th point earlier this season. Bre’cha Byrd, a 5-foot-8 sophomore guard, is the team’s second-leading scorer.
The Generals rely a lot on their defense and try to keep games low-scoring. Burner said that the Generals need to control the tempo of the game.
Stonewall Jackson has had a balanced attack all season, led by senior J.J. Dellinger. The forward is averaging 12.1 points and 8.1 rebounds per game.
Freshman point guard Kylene Franklin is averaging 9.8 points and 1.8 assists per contest. Streett is averaging 7.2 points per game, while junior Emily Dodson is scoring 6.9 points per contest.
The starting five is rounded out by senior guard LuLu Funkhouser, who is averaging 1.9 steals per contest and one of the team’s top defensive players.
It is the first time the Generals have advanced to the state semifinals since 2007.
Franklin said it’s been more more than she expected for her first season on varsity.
“Being my first year on varsity for us to be in the state semifinals I’m really excited, and ready for us to do really good in this,” Franklin said.
For the second straight game, the Generals don’t have leave Shenandoah County as they will once again be playing at Strasburg.
Dellinger said that’s a big advantage for the team.
“That’s awesome,” Dellinger said. “We had a big crowd last time. Hopefully, we’ll have a big crowd this time. We do better when we don’t travel very far.”
The winner of tonight’s game advances to the Class 1 state final, which will be held in Richmond on Friday at 2 p.m.
Surry County lost in the state semis last year, but did lose some players from last year’s squad.
Burner said he hopes the Generals gained some experience from the state quarterfinals last weekend, a 36-26 win over Lancaster.
Streett said that she thinks the team will be able to handle their nerves much better tonight.
“I definitely think we’ll be a lot less nervous,” Streett said. “We definitely had some plays in Saturday night’s game where we showed we were nervous — shooting the ball way over the rim, missing easy layups, free throws. So I think it was just all nerves, but I think we’re settled in now.”