Playoff time is anon

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Lady Eagles and Lady Cavs have hot hands

By Mike Forster

  All of this regular-season activity has been swell.  But, now the rubber meets the road, as ball meets hardwood in district playoff competition.

It all gets underway this Monday as both the Blue Ridge and Seminole kick off district play.

While county hoops have been nothing to bark at the moon over this year, two local girls teams seem to have the hot hand heading into the playoffs:  Staunton River and Jefferson Forest.

The Lady Eagles have locked down second place in the Blue Ridge District by virtue of their 8-2 record.  That finish gives the team a first-round bye in the Blue Ridge tourney, kicking off this Monday.

Jefferson Forest's Lady Cavs, meanwhile, have locked down third place in the Seminole District.  With a record of 8-4, the Lady Cavs only trail Seminole champ Brookville (11-1) and Heritage (10-2).

Both teams were in action this past week, and both picked up big wins.  River's week featured a come-from-behind win over William Byrd, while JF had huge wins over Heritage and Rustburg.


River storms back

When Staunton River P.A. announcer Jimmy Bond played the Star Spangled Banner prior to Thursday night's game, he didn't know he was setting the tone for the evening.

The disc from which the song is played has seen better days.  As it skipped and caught through the first half of the song, fans looked at each other uneasily, hoping to will the song to a successful conclusion.

That's exactly what happened with the game.

The Lady Eagles skipped and sputtered through an anemic first half.  Fans looked at each other, hopeful that their Eagles could rally to beat William Byrd.

The second half was a different story.  River Head Coach Kim Jones used some choice descriptors with her crew at the half.  Note to SRHS administration:  Your girls' locker room may need a paint job:  We're not sure there's any paint left on the walls following Coach Jones's "chat."

The Lady Eagles came out for the second half with a determined look.  Brie Holdren's steal ended up in a Jodi Salyer bucket.  Kassie Hoag pegged a trey and Danielle Holdren fought for a putback to put the Lady Eagles within a point.

Hoag fed Danielle Holdren underneath to give River a 21-20 lead.  Brie Holdren followed that up with a 12-foot pullup and River seemed in control.

Ah, not so fast, my friends.

Alexis Ratliff and Damera Hagins had back-to-back steals, which they converted into hoops.  Suddenly, Byrd was back in it.

In fact, it wasn't until Lauren Mitchell nailed a 12-footer with two minutes to go that the Eagles could breathe a bit easier.

Salyer made a long dash, dishing off to Shaniesha Robinson for the game icer with a minute remaining.

For the game, Robinson had ten points, eight in the second half.  All of Salyer's eight points came after intermission, as did all of Mitchell's five.

Of note, Danielle Holdren put up eight points and snagged a dozen rebounds.  She is playing with a good amount of poise and confidence, which bodes well for the stretch run.

"It was ugly," said Coach Jones.  "But I'll take an ugly win over a pretty loss."

The pretty loss came against Lord Botetourt a few nights earlier.  The Golden Eagles saw the Lady Cavs win the Blue Ridge title, 50-46.  River held a slight edge going into the fourth quarter, which is when LB turned on the jets.

Lord Bot completed a perfect 10-0 run through the Blue Ridge.

To a player, every Eagle expects to see Lord Bot in the Blue Ridge finals.  To a player, they all feel they can take the Lady Cavs.  In fact, the other time these two teams met, the game went to overtime before Lord Bot prevailed.

Of course, Staunton River will have to win to get that shot.  They'll play the winner of the Rockbridge-William Byrd opening-round game.  Lord Bot has the winner of the Northside-Alleghany tilt.

Those games will be played at Northside.


Team together

There's another Lady Cav team that is playing in superb fashion.  This one resides in the eastern part of our county.

Jefferson Forest had what may be one of the best basketball weeks in recent memory.

First, the Lady Cavs upended Heritage, knocking the Pioneers out of a first-place tie with Brookville.

"We were very fundamentally sound in the fourth quarter:  I don't believe we had any turnovers," said JF Head Coach Paul Redgate.  " We started attacking them in our half court offense and got a lot off of penetration. To go with not turning it over and getting shots/lay ups off penetration, we knocked down our free throws in the fourth quarter."

In fact, Anna Carter was nine-of-nine for the game, to give you a taste of JF's precision. 

"Heritage is an outstanding tea," assessed Redgate.  To wit:  The Pioneers were just coming off of a big win over Brookville, which tied them with the Bees for first place in the Seminole.

"To beat them like we did, having the mental toughness in the fourth quarter, to make a comeback and then protect the lead, speaks a lot of our team and I was very proud of them."

Indeed, the Lady Cavs outscored the Pioneers 25-12 in the last quarter, in taking the win.

Then, Jefferson Forest completely dominated highly regarded Rustburg.

Playing at home, the Lady Cavs mauled the Red Devils by the score of 55-35.

How bad of a pounding was it?  Try this on for size:  In the first quarter, the high-flying Rusties were limited to a single basket.

Meanwhile, the team looked lights-out.  Amber Evans served to stop up any hopes of a Rustburg inside game.  Anna Carter picked up the hot hand, putting home 25 points.

Erin McKeague had crisp passes all night long.  Katie Cousins, all five-foot-nothing of her had a fistful of rebounds.  Cassidy Ratliff made a complete pest of herself, forcing half a dozen turnovers.

Now the Lady Cavs turn their attention toward Amherst.  They play the Lancers in the opening round, and do so at Amherst (the tournament host site).

Win there, and they live to play again.