Stonewall Jackson and Strasburg’s girls basketball teams are already in regionals, but each team would like nothing better than to add a trophy and gain some momentum when they play in the Bull Run District tournament.
Fifth-seeded Stonewall Jackson plays at fourth-seeded Madison County at 7 p.m., while second seeded Strasburg hosts seventh-seeded Rappahannock County at 6 p.m. in the tourney quarterfinals tonight.
Strasburg coach Darin Jenkins said his team can’t take Rappahannock County lightly. The Rams (21-1, 13-1 Bull Run) beat Rappahannock County (7-16, 2-12 Bull Run) 56-50 on Dec. 20 and 49-22 on Jan. 24.
“The thing about Rapp is they’ve got a bunch of girls that can shoot the 3 and if they’re hot you have to find a way to stop it,” Jenkins said. “I have a lot of respect for what those guys do over there with Rapp. They always play hard. They always seem to be ready to play. They always play the right way. So we’re going to have to be ready.”
The Rams entered the week in second in the Region 2B power point ratings. Stonewall Jackson entered the week in seventh, but could move up to six when the final ratings come out after tonight’s Shenandoah District games. The Shenandoah District is finishing up its regular season tonight.
Stonewall Jackson (9-13, 6-8 Bull Run) split with Madison County (13-9, 8-6) this season. The Generals beat the Mountaineers 47-34 on Jan. 3 and lost to them 50-42 on Jan. 28.
“They have a lot of balance,” Stonewall Jackson girls basketball coach Jeff Burner said of Madison County. “They have a lot of different kids that can score. ...Playing (Madison) on the road is even tougher. That’s a part for us that we’ve grown is we’ve gotten better on the road, because at the beginning of the year we were really struggling on the road. And against teams that we handled here at home, some of them pretty handily. We didn’t do that on the road. Some of that is a product of youth like learning how to prepare yourself on the road and being tough.”
Stonewall Jackson has a young squad with only one senior starter and three freshmen on the team playing vital roles.
Senior Autumn Summers said that she’s excited for the tournament and feels good about how they can perform.
“I’m really excited for our team to be able to do this,” Summers said. “I think that we’ve grown a lot as a team this year. I think that we have a really good chance at competing and sticking with the teams that we’re going against.”
Stonewall Jackson has had a balanced attack this season offensively. Junior point guard Kylene Franklin is averaging 12.4 points, 5.9 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 2.9 steals per contest to lead the Generals. Freshman Mya Councill (10.3 points, 3.6 assists and 1.8 steals per game) and Annika Dellinger (8.1 points and 7.6 rebounds per contest) have played vital roles. Burner said the play of freshman Bree Franklin lately has also been a key. She is averaging almost 8 points a game in her last seven games.
The Generals have also been playing solid defense since early in the season. They have held teams to 44 points or less in 11 of their last 16 games. They also gave Strasburg all they could handle last week, before falling 54-52 in overtime.
“I think our defense is probably what has stuck together the most this whole season,” Kylene Franklin said. “It’s definitely developed. We’ve brought other teams shooting percentages down and that’s really good to see. That proves that our defense is getting better.”
The Generals have hung tough with both of the top two seeds — Luray and Strasburg — and are confident they can do well in the tournament.
“I can see this team going far,” Kylene Franklin said. “If we really pull together and show what we’ve been showing in the past couple games, I feel like we can definitely succeed in this district. I feel like as long as we keep our heads up and we think positive and we believe in ourselves that we’ll be in it til the end.”
Summers said that no matter how the Generals do in the postseason, she’s happy with the progress the team has made.
“I think we’re just a really close family this year,” Summers said. “I think that’s really good chemistry to have going into here. I think even though that I might be leaving (to graduate) I think we’ve all created a really good bond together. I think that’s going to translate over to next season. Even if we don’t make it far, I’m really proud of everything that we’ve accomplished this year.”
Jenkins said he believes the tournament as a whole is wide open and that any team is capable of winning it.
“I think on any given night any team can beat one another,” Jenkins said. “I think even teams down towards the bottom when you play them you better be ready to play, because they’re going to play hard. I think it’s going to be exciting. It’s going to be fun, and I think you better be ready to play. Any time you get to the postseason everyone’s 0-0 and it’s a new season. Some of those teams, those games could be their last game. So you got to be ready for that. I’m excited for that. I’m looking forward to it.”
Strasburg started the season off 19-0, before falling to top-seeded Luray. The Rams have bounced back with two wins to get back on track entering postseason play.
Strasburg has been led by 6-foot-4 center Christyan Reid with 17.6 points and 7.8 rebounds per contest. Sophomore point guard Nyla Sperry (10.8 points, 2.8 assists and 2.9 steals per game) and 6-foot-3 forward Jaden Alsberry (10.4 points, 9.3 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.9 steals per contest) have also played key roles on offense.
The Rams advanced to the Class 2 state quarterfinals last year and won 11 straight games until falling to Maggie Walker Regional Governor’s School in the state quarters. Along the way the Rams won the Bull Run District and Region 2B tourney titles.
Sperry said she believes the team will be motivated to repeat as district champs.
“I’m excited because the season’s almost over and we don’t want it to end already,” Sperry said. “So I think we’re going to push for the district tournament after winning it last year. I think that’s really going to push us to hopefully do that again.”
Jenkins said that even though there isn’t as much at stake for his team he wants his players to play the upcoming games like the season is on the line.
“I think anytime you can win something it’s fun,” he said. “It’s a little bit of bragging rights. It’s another trophy you can possibly put in the trophy case, and these girls can say it’s something else they accomplished in their careers. We’re going to go into it like it’s our season. We’re going to take one game at a time and we’re not going to overlook anybody. Hopefully we can be playing our best basketball now because now is when it’s important.”