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As they have all season long, Staunton River’s Lady Eagles ensured nobody left early. Also, as they have all season, the team nabbed another close victory, topping Brookville, 39-32, in overtime.
The game revived memories of the Golden Eagles’ 50-49 win at Brookville in early January. That contest, too, went into extra minutes.
This win was even sweeter, as it padded the Eagles’ Seminole lead in the district race. Standing at 9-0, the team is on the brink of bringing home Staunton River’s first regular-season title in any sport this decade.
Fierce defense, solid teamwork and coolness under pressure were the keys to the victory, which came in front of a packed Staunton River house.
That defense? Oh, my. The Eagles seemed to have arms and legs everywhere, as they incessantly pressed the Bees in the Brookville end.
Additionally, Brookville could generate little from inside the key. In fact, the Bees only had seven baskets from the field, the majority of their points coming from the charity stripe.
Once again, the Eagles really came to life when challenged. After leading the entire first half, Staunton River saw Brookville take a 14-13 halftime lead when Emilee Dunton nailed a pair of free throws with two seconds remaining.
After Amy Salyer’s 8-footer put the Eagles ahead in the third quarter, Katie Deacon nailed a trey to put Brookville up 24-21 at the end of that stanza.
Brookville went up, 27-24, when Peyton Thompson made a free throw. That three-point lead appeared to be a mountain, especially when Staunton River was called for travelling on its next possession.
Head Coach Kim Jones called time-out in an effort to right the ship. Jones told her charges, “We worked all year for this. We’re not sharing it.”
The team broke the huddle by shouting, “Heart.”
That’s just what the girls showed. Sam Sublett hit a put-back with 1:30 left to draw within one. Jodi Salyer, Laquaksha Robinson and Kelly Jackson forced a travel violation out of the Bees at the one-minute mark.
Courtney Dearing coolly hit from the top of the key, and the Eagles owned a 28-27 lead.
Lindsay Sharman, though, was hacked on a rebound of a Deacon missed three-point attempt. Despite the ear-splitting noise from the crowd, Deacon coaxed one of her shots in and the score was knotted.
With five seconds left, Sublett’s 8-footer banged in and out, pushing the game into overtime.
That extra period is when the Eagles really came through.
Deacon opened with a layup to put the Bees up, but it was all SR after that.
Sublett nailed a pair of free throws to even the score.
Jodi Salyer made a deft steal, dishing off to Dearing who pulled up for a 10-footer.
On the next Bee possession, Salyer nabbed it again, dishing to Laquaksha Robinson for a layup and a four-point lead.
Robinson got a hand on a Talisha Watts shot, which Kelly Jackson grabbed and dished to Dearing. She was fouled and, though she missed her one-and-one attempt, Robinson grabbed the rebound. Everyone was making it happen for the Eagles.
Finally, Jodi Salyer hit three of four free throws as ice water coursed through her veins, effectively ending any hope for a Bee comeback.
After the game, an emotional Coach Jones praised her entire team. “When we get in trouble, someone always steps up,” she said.
In this case, Shaniesha Robinson, who has stepped up for others in the past, was the one who needed a hand, when she got into foul trouble.
Sublett provided the help, scoring 8 points, every one of them coming at critical junctures.
The team had a special fan in the form of Coach Jones’s grandmother, Vera Quarles.
Her take? “It’s just dynamite,” she enthused.
-The largest lead during regulation came early in the second period, when SR held an 11-5 edge.
-The Lady Eagles are a very physical, talented and cohesive bunch. What separates them from the rest, it seems, is that they expect to win. The team is unflappable when in tight spots.
-It’s too bad Staunton River is heading to the Blue Ridge next year. Brookville-SR could have been a great rivalry for years to come. Only two Brookville players are seniors.
While Staunton River will graduate a lot of talent, it will retain quite a bit, as well (for example, both Robinsons, both Salyers, Jordan Merrill, and others).
-The case could be made that the loudest supporters of the Lady Eagles at this game were their counterparts from the boys’ team. They whooped it up for the ladies throughout the game.
-By virtue of its two wins over Brookville, even if SR were to lose its final two games, it will have the #1 seed in the District tournament.
At this point, the opening rounds look like they’ll feature the rest of the District like this:
Amherst (7) at Brookville
Liberty (5) at JF (4)
Heritage (6) at Rustburg (3)
In other action
On Monday, the Lady Eagles easily dispatched Amherst, 55-12. The swarming Staunton River defense was so stifling, it allowed a total of four points in the second half.
Courtney Dearing led a scoring parade of 11 Eagles, with 11 points on a trio of treys.
The win gave the Eagles a District record of 10-0 and assured them of at least a share of the District title. They also locked down the #1 seed for the Seminole tournament. In the event SR should end in a tie with Brookville, the Eagles have the advantage in tie breakers (head-to-head, SR is 2-0).
There is little doubt that the winless Lancer team is looking forward to the end of this season and the chance to regroup and build toward next season.
Staunton River has two chances to win the title outright. It will have to win one of its next two games to do so:
-Thursday, when it hosts Rustburg.
-Monday, Feb. 9, at JF. That game might be played for a perfect Seminole record.