The winning formula: Generals ride defense to state quarterfinal win over Lancaster
STRASBURG – Stonewall Jackson High School’s girls basketball team has developed, and embraced, a specific identity this season.
The Generals don’t score a lot of points, they don’t have any superstars and rarely are they the most athletic team on the floor. But they play defense.
Stonewall has made that formula work in the postseason, and now the Generals are one of four teams left standing in the Virginia High School League Class 1 state tournament after a 36-26 win over Lancaster in the quarterfinals on Saturday night at Strasburg High School. The victory sends Stonewall into Tuesday’s semifinals against Surry County, a game that also will be played at Strasburg at 7 p.m.
Saturday’s victory was every bit Stonewall-esque, as the Generals shot less than 30 percent from the field and struggled at the free-throw line but held the Red Devils to their worst offensive performance of the season.
“It’s just what we do,” Generals junior forward Emily Dodson said following the win. “Defense wins games.”
It certainly did against Lancaster (18-7), which went nearly 14 minutes without a field goal in the first half and hit just one shot from the field in the fourth period while the Generals (14-13) pulled away.
The Devils led only briefly in the first period after Harmony Taylor hit a 3-pointer a minute and 25 seconds into the game. Two free throws and a fastbreak bucket by senior J.J. Dellinger gave Stonewall a 4-3 lead with 5:45 left in the quarter and the Generals never trailed again.
Extending that lead was a grind – the Generals took a 10-4 advantage into the second period after 5 straight points by freshman point guard Kylene Franklin and led only 15-10 at the half – but Stonewall didn’t allow another Lancaster field goal until Nealasia Redmond hit a basket in transition with 0:48 left in the first half.
The Devils were 0-for-15 from the floor with nine turnovers during their field goal drought and shot only 10 percent (2-for-20) in the first half.
“Defense is our baby,” said Stonewall senior LuLu Funkhouser, who locked down on Lancaster junior Skylar Sawyer and held the Devils’ leading scorer to just 4 points. “This is what we do, and it fell apart sometimes but I think we got it together and continued to play.”
Lancaster ended the night shooting just 15.9 percent (7-for-44) from the floor with leading scorers Sawyer and Skyler Henderson limited to only 7 points combined.
Devils head coach Joanne Webb-Fary said Lancaster, like Stonewall, is known more for its defense than its offense and added that the outcome of Saturday’s game was decided by “whoever got out there and wanted it more.”
“We knew that they were a really good defensive team,” Webb-Fary said, noting that Stonewall – which plays a pack-line man-to-man defense inspired by the University of Virginia’s men’s team – was only the third team to play man against the Devils this season. “Of course we tried to prepare for that and when we drove in they collapsed. That is where we get a lot of our points is driving and fast breaks. When they shut that down, outside we get a few here and there but that was pretty much it.”
The Devils found some life on offense in the third period, eventually tying the game at 18-all while hitting three of their first five shots to start the frame, including a pair of 3-pointers from Henderson and Redmond (team-high 10 points).
Two Dellinger free throws regained the lead for Stonewall with 5:12 left in the third period, and Franklin’s fastbreak layup after she raced by the defense with 30 seconds left in the quarter sent the Generals into the final frame with a 25-21 lead.
“We adapted to what they threw at us,” Franklin said, “and we definitely had some rough patches in the defense, but pretty much we handled them as best we could.”
Stonewall, which held Lancaster to only two field goals over the final 9:05 of the game, ended the contest with a 13-5 run.
“Just our mentality, like don’t give up, keep playing hard, we’re not going home. How many times that’s said on the bench, it’s crazy,” Dellinger said of the Generals’ ability to close out Saturday’s win.
Dodson spun off a defender on the low block to give Stonewall a 6-point lead to start the fourth period, and Dellinger followed with a layup off her own steal before nailing a 3-pointer from the corner off Franklin’s drive-and-kick with 6:05 to play.
Sara Streett’s bucket in transition extended Stonewall’s lead to 34-23 with 4:45 to play before the Generals began milking the clock to put the victory away.
“We made the winning plays when we had to,” Generals head coach Jeff Burner said.
Dellinger led the Generals with 11 points to go along with six rebounds. Dodson had 10 points and five boards, Franklin 9 points and six rebounds and Streett 6 points and a game-high 11 boards.
Stonewall, which shot only 27.2 percent (12-for-44) in the win, held a 42-39 on the glass.
The Generals’ next opponent, Surry County, beat Appomattox Regional Governor’s School, 56-16, in its state quarterfinal game on Saturday. The Cougars, the Region 1A champs, are 27-2 this season.
“They’re gonna press and get after it the whole time, and they’re pretty good,” Burner said of Surry County. “I mean they made it to the final four last year. Now they don’t have some of the same kids that they did last year but they’re still pretty good. We’re gonna have to play our butts off to beat them.”