Girls Varsity Basketball
Game Summaries & Headlines.
Courtside prior to the game between the Manchester Lancers and the Eagles on Monday night resembled more of a funeral home than a basketball court. The two teams had not taken the court yet for warm ups and you could count the fans in the stands without a calculator. When the Eagles did take the floor for warm-ups they could feel the gloom in the room as well. Sophomore spark plug Cameren Downs walked by the scorer’s table and I whispered, “be very very quiet”. If you’re under 30 years old and don’t remember Elmer Fudd that’s not going to make much sense, but it got a wry smile from both Downs and Senior Coviya Winters.
Those smiles turned very very quickly as soon as the game started. The Lancers punched the Eagles in the mouth at the start of the game and outhustled the home team throughout the opening quarter. Manchester jumped on the Forge early and controlled the tempo jumping out to a 15-10 lead midway through the stanza. Forge showed a glimmer of life late but went to the bench trailing 21-18 at the break.
The second quarter opened up with a BOMB from Downs to the left of the arc that tied the game at 21-21. It’s there where you sort of said to yourself, “Finally…ok now let’s go”. The Forge has been almost famous for slow starts, and this night was more of the same. The Eagles went on a short 5-2 run to take a 26-23 lead with 5:12 left, but those Lancers weren’t going away. Manchester responded midway through the quarter and when sophomore Anaiya Miller hit a short jumper in the paint, the game was tied 27-27 with 3 minutes left until the break. An 8-2 run by the Eagles sent the “good gals” to the halftime locker room leading 35-29, but not real happy about it.
The Eagles focused coming out of the locker room and jumped to a 38-31 lead, but guess what? Here came the Lancers again, scoring 5 straight points to cut the lead to 38-36 and prompted Eagles Head Bench boss Lashaun Cook to call a late time out to talk it over. The two teams headed into “winning time” with the Forge clinging to a 39-37 lead. No miss-print, no typo, the 3rd seeded Eagles were battling the 6th seeded Lancers, and they were getting A LOT more than they asked for.
The Eagles seemed to snap out of the doldrums early in the final stanza. The Forge went on an aggressive and impressive 11-4 run to start the quarter and had a 50-41 advantage with 5:03 left in the game. That would be the final Forge point of the quarter when decided to spread it out and tried to work the clock. The pesky Lancers worked their way back to the contest scoring the next seven points and were only down two 50-48 with 18.6 seconds left. Out of a timeout the Lancers went the length of the floor and it was MILLER TIME again as she put up an off balanced shot at the buzzer that seemed to check every inch of the rim before it finally fell through the nylon to tie the game, sending it to OVERTIME.
A Lancer squad that only has 2 seniors on its roster with a plethora of sophomores playing quality minutes, was giving the defending State Champions all they could handle…..but in the end, the Forge would respond.
Manchester took a 52-50 lead in the opening minute of overtime on a bucket by sophomore guard Maddie Cason. Undaunted the Eagles went down the floor and Downs answered with a BULLS-EYE to put the Forge ahead for good at 53-52. On the Eagles next possession Downs went in the paint to Senior Jamise Shellington who flipped up shot off the window and drew the foul. Shellington had struggled all game from the charity stripe, but during crunch time in the regionals, she buried the and one to put her team ahead 55-52 with 2:23 left. On their next possession the Eagles went to Shellington again and she responded with a layup in the paint and that grew the lead to six and took the sword away from the Lancers. The deciding factor in the extra session was the Forge defense as they held the Lancers to just a made free throw by Emily Halloway with just 9.8 seconds left in the game.
In the last minute there was a conga line of Eagles walking to the free throw line but they didn’t go out on fire. The Eagles were 1 for 6 at the charity stripe late and it gave the coaching staff another thing to work on for the regional semi-final on Wednesday night at James River. The thing they can build on moving forward was they held the Lancers to just a made free throw in the final 4 minutes of the overtime to survive and advance to the next round 59-53.
So it will be Forge and the #2 seed James River Rapids on Wednesday night. Tip time for that contest is set for 6pm.
AT TIMES THE VICTORS CAN BE SPOILED: The other thing that was missing in this one was the absence of the fan support for the Eagles. The GREEN WALL was more like a vacant lot in this one and nobody could figure out why. Sometimes fans can get spoiled by success and they don’t realize how hard it is to win these games. Last year’s banner is the FIRST championship in girl’s basketball for Stafford County. That should tell the fans that if it was easy winning these championships, EVERYBODY would have one. Maybe the GREEN WALL has been kidnapped by the bandwagon of fans who just expect our teams to win. No way to find out…unless you’re there on Wednesday night.