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Girls basketball: Eagles limp past Indians at the finish

BY JUSTIN RICE

Colonial Forge freshman Nichole Collins barely had time to catch her breath, let alone rest the ankle she had just twisted jumping for a rebound.

The Eagles needed her—bad ankle and all—to help close out the toughest Commonwealth District test they’ve faced this season.

Collins had eight of her 21 points in a key three-minute stretch late in the fourth quarter, and Colonial Forge held off Stafford, 80–69. The Eagles improved to 11–0 in district play—two games ahead of second-place Mountain View and four ahead of the Indians (8–8, 7–4)—with five games to play.

The Eagles won their first 10 Commonwealth games by an average of almost 30 points. So when Stafford’s Merritt Hempe hit a free throw with four minutes, 13 seconds remaining to cut Colonial Forge’s lead to 68–64, the Eagles found themselves in an odd spot.

They needed a clutch play or two.

“I’m proud of my girls,” Eagles coach Michelle Darley said. “They didn’t falter. We haven’t been in that position very much this year, and it showed we have some character.”

But Collins had already been helped off the court. And on the Eagles’ next possession, point guard Brandi Holland ended up on the floor, and couldn’t walk off.

Ready or not, it was Collins’ time.

“She said, ‘My ankle hurts,’” said sophomore Kenya Holland. “I told her, ‘You’re going to have to tough it out because we need you right now.’”

Hempe’s basket with 2:21 to play made the Colonial Forge lead 70–66.

Collins answered with a drive to the basket and a layup. Kendra Stone then forced a turnover on Stafford’s next possession, and it led to another layup by Collins.

She scored on Colonial Forge’s next possession, too, and with a 10-point lead and less than a minute to play, the Eagles’ advantage was safe.

“It shows her heart,” Kenya Holland said. “I think her ankle was really hurting her. But she kept going. She played hard.”

Hempe led the Indians’ second-half rally. She had 18 points after the break and finished with a game-high 30 after Stafford trailed, 46–33, at the break.

Kenya Holland helped build that first-half advantage for the Eagles.

She hit six 3-pointers in the first half, and the Eagles made eight 3’s as a team in the first two quarters.

“We have a good mix of guards,” said Kenya Holland, who finished with a team-high 23 points. “We all have different roles and we all know how to play them.”

Kenya Holland finished with a team-high 23 points.

“They are quick at the guard spots,” Stafford coach Carl Harris said. “They have a lot of quick guards that can do a lot of things. They penetrate well. They have some girls that can shoot it. You have to take your pick.

“We feel like we can beat them. If we can get our guards coming around like we know they can, we’ll be in a good spot. “

Both teams are off until next Friday, when Colonial Forge visits Brooke Point and Stafford hosts Riverbend.

    Col. Forge 17 29 13 21 — 80

    Stafford 18 15 17 19 — 69

    Scoring

    Colonial Forge (15–2, 11–0): Zhane Barnes 7, Sydney Bell 0, Nichole Collins 21, Kenya Holland 23, Brandi Holland 13, Jahla Osborne 8, Kendra Stone 8, Bri Sullivan 0. Totals: 26 22-31 80.

    Stafford (8–8, 7–4): Taysia Gray 10, Merritt Hempe 30, India Kithcart 4, Dominique McCoy 0, Kendall Parker 13, Erin Reiley 2, Jazmine Rorie 2, Brooke Scruggs 8, Alexis White 0. Totals: 24 15-21 69.

    Three-point goals: Colonial Forge 6 (K. Holland 6). Stafford 6 (T. Gray 2, M. Hempe, K. Parker 3).

Justin Rice: 540/368-5045

jrice@freelancestar.com

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