Falcons’ rally comes up short

Cetnral's Tamra Scott takes the ball to the basket while William Monroe's Kristin Shiffett defends during first quarter action Tuesday night in Woodstock. Rich Cooley/Daily

WOODSTOCK – Central made a furious rally in the fourth period on Tuesday, but came up just a little short.

The Falcons fell to William Monroe, 52-48, in Bull Run District girls basketball action. The loss snapped the Falcons 14-game winning streak, and gave the Dragons a share of the Bull Run District regular season title with Central. The Falcons won their earlier meeting this season.

“We knew coming in this was going to be a fun one,” William Monroe coach Jess Satfford said. “It was tight over at our place. Central’s got a great ball team. They’ve got some fantastic players. … This is a historical moment for us. I told the kids enjoy the ride. Enjoy what you’ve worked hard to accomplish. We’re sharing this with a very quailified team – happy to be in this position.”

It appreared the Dragons (17-5) might pull away in the fourth period, leading 46-38 with 5:31 left.

Central (19-2) responded with a 10-2 run to tie the game at 48 with 2:47 left. The Falcons were able to create a few turnovers with their full-court pressure and convert easy layups on the offensive end.

Central's Kendall Herbaugh goes in for a layup off a fast break and is fouled by William Monroe's Lacey Beale during second quarter action Tuesday night in Woodstock. Rich Cooley/Daily

Central’s Ayanna Strother and Tamra Scott each had four points during the run.

“I’m really, really proud of the girls, because we could have hung our heads and let that thing get out of hand there in the fourth,” Central coach Bryan Scott said. “I called several timeouts to remind the girls ‘don’t get upset. Let’s run our offense,’ and we did.”

William Monroe’s Da’Jour Strother-Beasley made two free throws to put the Dragons up 50-48 with 2:04 remaining. The Falcons were unable to get any shots to fall, and two free throws by William Monroe freshman Samantha Brunelle pushed the lead to 52-48 with 16 seconds left to seal the win.

“That’s one thing I’m extremely proud of with this group,” Stafford said. “They’re resilient. They don’t give up ever. That’s something we’ve worked on a long time. That’s something I’m incredibly proud of.”

That resilency showed in the first period as Central built a quick 14-3 lead. The Falcons hit five of seven field goal attempts, including several from 3-point range to build a double-digit lead with 3:47 left in the opening period. Central senior Meredith Phillips had six points during the run.

Central's Brooklyn Pumphrey, left, celebrates with Meredith Phillips after Phillips drilled a three-point shot in the first quarter as Central pulled out front with a quick 12-3 lead. Rich Cooley/Daily

“We started out pretty good, shooting the ball real well,” Bryan Scott said. “That was probably the best we’ve shot the ball all season.”

The shots stopped falling for the Falcons against a variety of zone defenses that William Monroe used.

The Dragons came to life on the offensive end. They went on a 17-2 run.

Stafford said she was happy with how her defense played against the Falcons.

“Really the goal was to slow them down,” Stafford said. “We know they like to run and gun. … Overall, I think we did a good job of controlling the tempo.”

William Monroe's Da'Jour Strother-Beasley collides into Central's Ayanna Strother in the backcourt during second quarter action Tuesday night in Woodstock. Strother-Beasley was charged with the foul. Rich Cooley/Daily

After Central cut the lead to 20-19, the Dragons used a 9-2 spurt to extend the lead again. Central’s Brooklyn Pumphrey hit a long 3-pointer to cut the lead to 29-24 at the half.

The Falcons once again started the half strong. They scored the first six points, including four from Strother, to take a 30-29 lead.

The Dragons came right back and the two teams exchanged the lead until late in the third period. William Monroe closed the third period with a 9-0 run to take a 42-35 lead.

The two teams went back and forth until the Falcons made a run to tie the game in the fourth period.

Stafford was pleased with Strother-Beasley’s defense against Tamra Scott, who was held to 10 points in the game.

Central's Meredith Phillips looks to pass as William Monroe's Kristin Manz puts on the pressure during their game on Feb. 9. Central will host George Mason tonight in the Conference 35 tournament final. The game was postponed Monday due to snow. Rich Cooley/Daily file

“Basically we just said don’t let her go left,” Stafford said. “(Strother-Beasley) kind of made it her mission, ‘I’m going to do everything I can to defend her. … Defensively, she keyed in and did a fantastic job.”

The Falcons had trouble stopping the 6-foot-2 Brunelle, who is ranked as one of the top freshmen in the country and already being recruited by colleges such as UConn. Brunelle had 29 points and 16 rebounds.

“The Brunelle girl, she came to play a little bit tonight,” Bryan Scott said. “She’s pretty decent. She makes the other four players on the court better.”

Strother-Beasley had 13 points and 12 rebounds for the Dragons, who will be the top seed in Conference 28. The Falcons and Dragons are in different conferences and classifications so they will not play against each other this season.

Strother led the Falcons with 17 points and Tamra Scott had 10 points and 12 rebounds. Central will be the top seed in Conference 35, and will host the winner of Strasburg and Madison County at 7 p.m. Saturday in the conference semifinals.

William Monroe's freshman standout Samantha Brunelle goes up for a jump shot during second quarter action while Meredith Phillips defends in Tuesday night's game in Woodstock. Rich Cooley/Daily

“I’m hoping we gave a decent crowd Saturday, and the girls get pumped up and get back to playing that Central Falcon defense,” Bryan Scott said. “It kind of went away tonight. We’ll practice the next three days, and we’ll get back at it.”

Contact staff writer Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 168, or tkeeler@nvdaily.com