QUICKSBURG – Stonewall Jackson High School’s boys basketball team ended its two-game slide with a combination of good team defense and a timely run at the end of the final period against visiting Buffalo Gap Friday night.
The Generals stymied Gap’s offensive attack in the middle quarters and held the Bison to just three field goals in that span, then scored 11 of the game’s final 17 points to put away a 54-45 victory in Shenandoah District action.
“I think it spoke a lot because we knew we could win this game but we’ve kind of been struggling as far as getting games to go our way,” said Generals junior guard Nick Dotson, who led all scorers with 20 points and six rebounds. “It was a close game for a while. We knew it was gonna be scrappy but we were able to hang in there and finish. We finished the game and went on a little run there, took the lead when it mattered. We were saying ‘finish’ in the huddle. We knew what we needed to do.”
The final 3½ minutes ultimately clinched the victory for Stonewall Jackson (6-5, 2-3 Shenandoah) but it was the Generals’ defense, particularly in the second and third quarters, which proved to be the game’s biggest key in the eyes of Stonewall head coach Mike Lenox.
The Generals entered the second period trailing Buffalo Gap (1-10, 0-6) 14-9 after enduring a near five-minute scoring drought before Brendan Hoover buried a 3-pointer in the closing seconds of the opening quarter. That trey began what would turn into an 18-5 run for the rest of the half as Stonewall limited the Bison to 1 of 14 shooting in the second period.
Stonewall ended the night shooting 39.5 percent (17 for 43) but limited Gap to just 35.6 percent (16 for 45) from the floor and forced 18 turnovers.
“We started off pretty bad on offense but we turned that around. It was mainly defensively,” Generals senior Kaelan Sorrells said, adding that Stonewall played strong help side defense.
Lenox said the improvement defensively in the second period was as simple as changing the way in which the Generals were guarding Gap’s players on the perimeter after the head coach encouraged more ball pressure at the top of the key at the end of the first quarter.
Stonewall carried a 24-19 lead into halftime and saw the Bison become very deliberate in their offensive possessions in the third period. Buffalo Gap attempted just six shots – and made two – in the quarter, limited the Generals to only six points in the frame and tied the game before Tyler Patton’s 3-pointer gave Stonewall a 30-27 lead heading into the fourth. Lenox said the change of pace actually played in the Generals’ favor.
“It might have helped us get our legs under us and stay with them,” Lenox said. “They took a lot of time off there and weren’t really doing too much offensively the whole time. So I think it might’ve helped us defensively just to regroup and know what’s going on.”
Buffalo Gap pulled within a point a minute into the fourth quarter on Addison McGuffin’s steal and one-handed slam, which prompted a timeout from Lenox. Dotson nailed a 3-pointer out of the timeout to start a 7-0 General run, but twice the Bison pulled back within four points before Stonewall went on one final surge in the game’s last two minutes.
A free throw by Sorrells pushed Stonewall’s lead to five with 1:50 left, and a steal by Dylan Vann on the defensive end led to Dotson’s driving bucket on the next possession. Dotson added a fast-break layup 15 seconds later and a Gap traveling violation preceded Sorrells’ wide-open 3-pointer from the wing that put the Generals up 51-39 with 45 seconds left.
“I think the thing that led to that was just our defense,” said Dotson, who scored 11 points in the fourth quarter. “We really locked down and just played tough defense, and we were able to rebound. Once we were able to get that rebound – which is not always as easy as it sounds – we were able to get the rebound and push it. All I did was try to run the floor and get the good pass from my teammates and just finish at the hoop.”
Sorrells scored eight of his nine points in the fourth period and finished with five assists and two steals. Brett Jones had eight points and eight rebounds for the Generals, and Hoover finished with seven points. Vann, whose play off the bench drew praise from Lenox, had four points and three steals.
McGuffin led Buffalo Gap with 16 points to go along with three steals, and Carter Rivenburg had 10 points and six rebounds for the Bison.
Stonewall, which had lost four of its last five prior to Friday’s win, continues district play with games against Riverheads and Luray next week and Lenox said he hopes to see the Generals continue to “battle and keep working.”
“We have nine games left. Nobody thought we’d be 6-5 right now and have two district wins,” Lenox said. “Looking forward to the next two games coming up and the second half of the season.”
Contact staff writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or firstname.lastname@example.org