Lady Eagles settle for second; JF, Minettes nail Devils

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By Mike Forster

The Staunton River girls dropped a heart-wrenching game at Brookville, 55-49, giving the Golden Eagles their third loss of the season to the undefeated Bees (River has only one other loss).

However, this game was eminently winnable, unlike the other two games. It is obvious that Staunton River has learned to play with the high-flying Bees.

After falling behind 5-0 to open the game, the Eagles caught fire. Led by Allison Huddleston?s three first quarter three-pointers, River led by as much as 14 points in the first half and took an 8 point lead into the locker room. Huddleston had 17 points on the night, while Kelly Jackson added 15.

?We were doing everything right,? said Eagle Head Coach Kim Jones. ?I couldn?t believe we were playing so well.?

Brookville came alive in the second half, led by dynamos Brittany Campbell (18 points) and Joyous Tharrington (15), finally grabbing the lead in the fourth quarter. That?s when things got interesting.

Down by a point with 45 seconds to go, Staunton River came up empty on its trip down the floor. On the subsequent Brookville possessions, two River players were called for intentional fouls, a statistical oddity. The Bees converted the opportunities into 3 points and, on the subsequent possession, Brittany Campbell iced the game with a pair of charity shots as the Eagles were flagged yet again.

In the first matchup of these teams (Lady Terrier Classic), Staunton River looked like it didn?t belong on the same court. In the second, at River, the Golden Eagles made it a game, but were outmatched. Now, it appears that Staunton River is comfortable playing with this elite team and should be ready to give the Bees a game, should the opportunity (in the District tourney) present itself again.

Staunton River bounced back two nights later to pound Heritage, 50-36, led by Jackson?s 15. With the win, the Lady Eagles secured second place in the District. ?The girls kept their heads up,? said Jones. ?Like I told them, ?See, the sun did come up. We?re OK?.?

Forest has solid showing

Jefferson Forest let the rest of the District know that it is not to be overlooked, as it knocked back a Rustburg rally en route to beating the Red Devils by the score of 48-29.

With the win, the Lady Cavs put themselves in the driver?s seat to take the fourth seed and a home court opener in the Seminole District tournament.

?I thought our kids showed tremendous moxie and poise,? said Brown of his team?s response to the Rustburg rally that cut a double-digit Lady Cav lead down to 3. ?Rather than wilting, our kids responded by playing the best eight minutes of the year while closing out the game with a 16-3 fourth quarter.?

Brown added, ?It was the best win of the season so far.?

Jessie Quarles, Rachel McKeague and Tie Harrison broke out of shooting slumps in timely fashion. Quarles pegged eight points in the first quarter. Rustburg had to respect Quarles? inside game, opening up the perimeter for McKeague and Harrison, who combined for three treys, each at a critical juncture of the game. ?We?re at our best when we have our inside-outside balance,? noted Brown.

Quarles had 12 points and 8 rebounds, while McKeague led the Lady Cavs with 15.

A key to that balance is Renae Brooks, who has developed into a more complete player this season, showing good ball movement and handling skills. However, Brooks got into foul trouble and sat out most of the third quarter. Rustburg?s Gabby Glass exploited the absence, pumping in 10 points and helping to draw almost even with Forest, during Brooks? sabbatical.

But the Lady Cav junior returned with a vengeance, sparking a fourth quarter run with her strong inside play. The Forest bench went into near delirium following a sequence by Brooks, on her end of the court, that resulted in a bucket and a foul.

The Lady Cavs seem to have regained their fine defensive footing. They limited the powerful Gabby Glass to 16 points and held Shannon Glass to 6 for the night.

With an overall record of 13-5, the Lady Cavs must be taken into account when doing the Regional math (The top four teams from the District go to Regional. Regular season champ Brookville already has its ticket). Said Brown of that record, ?If someone had offered that to me before the season, I would have taken it. I?m enjoying watching our kids develop into the team we envisioned in preseason.?

Minettes suddenly strong

Liberty seems to have finally found the scoring touch. The Minettes reeled off consecutive victories over Amherst and Rustburg putting them back into contention for fifth place, along with the Rusties.

Liberty pounded Amherst 66-16, providing its greatest offensive fireworks of the season against the young and inexperienced Lancers. Jennifer Coleman led the way with 15 points, nearly outscoring Amherst all by herself. Hannah Martin had her biggest night of the year, putting up 13 points, while Danielle Shuey and Kari Cassell each contributed 9.

That win provided a learning opportunity for Head Coach Andrew Kelso?s charges. ?We started pushing the ball up the floor and looking several passes ahead,? he stated. ?Obviously, we want to be playing our best at the end of the season.?

The Minettes did look their best against Rustburg in the 47-27 win. ?That?s the kind of game we?ve been looking for,? exclaimed Kelso.

The ball movement was crisp and the shooting was deadly. Stephanie Chambers played her best all-around game of the season and was a bundle of energy throughout the game. The West Virginia-bound senior led all scorers with 16 points, and her lightning-fast hands forced 8 turnovers. Lachelle Starks, recently promoted from JV, seemed to grow more comfortable playing at the next level with each passing minute. The sophomore chased down 9 rebounds to go along with her 7 points.

Kenara Hurt slowed her pace down enough to have her most productive game of the year, delivering 7 points. Coleman, Shuey and Brandie Witt were notably ferocious on defense, ganging up to limit the Glass sisters to 16 points for the evening.

The backcourt press worked to Liberty?s advantage as the Red Devils were forced, many times, into trying desperation full-court heaves. The constant pressing took a noticeable toll on the energy level of Rustburg. ?When we sit back in the zone, we don?t get anything done,? said Kelso, explaining the emphasis on the press.

The players on both teams seemed to spend half the game diving for loose balls, and the Minettes won the vast majority of those.

In all, it was a solid team effort from the Minettes.

Coming up

This Thursday, Liberty travels to Forest while Staunton River heads to Rustburg. On Saturday, the Minettes host E.C. Glass to wrap up their regular season. In-county fun continues on Monday when Forest hits Staunton River for the Eagles? regular season ender. Forest sneaks in a game at Altavista on Wednesday, Feb. 13 before shifting its attention to the District tourney.

?With Hannah Steele, cub reporter