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With all the hype about Staunton River's chance at upending Brookville at the top o' the Seminole heap, another local team has started to reveal aspirations of its own.
Jefferson Forest opened the season in impressive fashion, walloping an understaffed Amherst team before pounding E.C. Glass on the Lady Cav home hardwoods. The Lancers were routed 65-16 while the Hilltoppers fell by a less embarrassing 62-38.
While the wins, of themselves, do not propel the Lady Cavs to contender status, they certainly show that Forest is capable of an offensive explosiveness that has been lacking in recent history.
Against an Amherst team that is basically building from scratch, the Lady Cavs jumped out to a 16-1 lead, as Tie Harrison put up the first 7 points of the game. Head Coach Tom Brown recently moved Harrison into a starting role. "We're hopeful that Tie's speed, energy, and playmaking ability help facilitate faster starts," explained Brown. "We're trying to work that circular argument that fast starts lead to confidence, and confidence leads to fast starts."
Harrison led the Cav scoring attack with a total of 12 as everyone on the team got into the scoring parade. Renae Brooks and Mandy Dix each put up 9. Jordan Price, Megan Scott and Rachel McKeague each nabbed 7 while Jessie Quarles got a half-dozen. Kelsey Clay (5) and Kelsey Huff (3) rounded out the scoring.
Forest kept the scoring party going against Glass as Mandy Dix blew open a tight game with 12 second quarter points. A veritable bundle of energy, Dix hit a career high 23 points in the win, a much more impressive affair than an earlier-season two-point win. Dix has to get a lot of credit for the improvement.
With the insertion of Harrison into the lineup, the Cavs present a three-guard look. Brown pointed out that an additional benefit of this configuration is the ability to have Rachel "the Swiss army knife" McKeague drop back to a forward slot on defense, to help out in the rebounding department. McKeague has responded in superb fashion.
"Rachel played a brilliant all-around game Saturday, scoring 13 points (including three 3-pointers), pulling down 10 boards, dishing out 5 assists, and securing 4 steals," marveled Brown. "She did everything but sell popcorn at halftime, and she would have done that if we needed her to."
While the team is off to a blazing start to the new year, Brown is quick to caution against overexuberance. "Until we (have this type of performance against the elite teams), we'll still be considered a minivan in a district top-heavy in sports cars," he noted. "But the recent scoring acumen does allow us, as Payton Manning opines in his "pep talk" commercial, to paint some flames down the side of that minivan."
Staunton River playing it close
The Golden Eagles might be accused of looking ahead to their matchup with Brookville or, perhaps, they haven't shaken off the Christmas tinsel. Either way, the team found itself in a couple of donnybrooks, escaping with wins, barely.
In non-league action, Staunton River escaped a close call with William Byrd, taking the Lady Terriers by a score of 31-29. Kelly Jackson was the only Eagle in double figures as she tallied 13 points in the win. As this was the third time that these two teams have squared off against one another in the past three weeks, they probably have had enough of the Rte 24 rivalry. Staunton River won all three matchups.
Jumping back into District play, the Eagles were nearly ambushed at Heritage, escaping a trip into overtime before winning by a score of 50-44.
After running up a big first quarter lead, Staunton River apparently fell asleep at the wheel, allowing the Pioneers to get back into the game. Kelly Jackson was the difference-maker, leading the Eagles with 12 points, nearly all of them coming in the late stages of the game/overtime.
The Eagles have yet to show the killer instinct that comes with a champion. Instead, while putting up an impressive win-loss record of 9-2, the team is allowing virtually any opponent to stick around. That is a dangerous practice, one which nearly backfired against Heritage.
Minette blues continue
Liberty remained winless for the season as the Minettes were handled by Glenvar 50-30. The Highlanders limited Liberty to 8 total points for the first half, continuing the Minettes' season-long struggle on the offensive end of the game. Kenara Hurt was he top scorer for the Minettes, getting 7 points for the game.
Liberty's woes continued when it faced Seminole powerhouse Brookville this past Friday night. Playing at the Bee Hive, the Minettes were overpowered by Brittany Campbell, Joyous Tharrington and company. The two seniors tallied 17 and 11 points, respectively, nearly combining to match Liberty's output.
One bright spot for Liberty was the play of Jennifer Coleman, who was the big producer for the Minettes with 12 points, including a couple of buckets from beyond the 3-point arc. Coleman always plays a hard-nosed game, so it was nice to see some of her shots fall for her.
Following this past Tuesday's games (Liberty-Amherst, Forest-Rustburg, Staunton River-Brookville), the teams are busy toward the end of this week. On Friday night, Liberty heads to Rustburg while Staunton River heads to Amherst. On Saturday, Forest is at Gretna.
On Monday (Jan. 14) Liberty hosts Glenvar. Tuesday finds Forest at Liberty and Staunton River entertaining Rustburg.