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Group AA, Division 3 Girls Basketball: Wolverines eliminate scrappy Yellow Jackets

JAMES MONROE HANGS WITH WOODGROVE

TO END, BUT CAN’T FIND POINTS

TO EXTEND SEASON

By STEVE FRANZELLO

RICHMOND—James Monroe’s quest for its first-ever championship in girls basketball came to an end at Virginia Commonwealth University’s Siegel Center Saturday afternoon.

But as the Yellow Jackets walked off the court for the final time following a 55–52 loss to Woodgrove in the Group AA, Division 3 quarterfinals, they knew they had left everything they had on the floor.

“We were relentless to the end,” said senior guard Keyontae Williams, who poured in 25 points in her final game in a JM uniform. “There’s no reason to for us to hang our heads—we played to the very end.”

In a game between two up-tempo, athletic offenses that was punctuated with scoring runs, the second-year Wolverines got the spurt they needed most in the second half and pulled out a hard-fought victory.

After reeling from a torrid display of shooting by Williams and the Yellow Jackets in the second quarter that featured a 17–0 run, Woodgrove re-grouped in the second half and outscored JM 29–20 to notch its win.

“We had to scrap for every ounce of energy we had and every loose ball we got against them,” said Woodgrove coach Kevin Copley. “This was a great game between two really good teams.”

The Wolverines (25–4) now advance to Tuesday’s semifinal round in Richmond, while JM closes its season at 21–8. Along the way, the Yellow Jackets captured the school’s first regional title in Group AA.

“We came a long way this year,” said Yellow Jackets coach Julian Bumbrey. “We came up a little short at the end, but I’m proud of my girls and this program for what we accomplished.”

It was apparent from the start of Saturday’s game that both teams had done their homework.

Bumbrey and the Yellow Jackets knew coming in that they would have to contend with the Wolverines’ full-court press and size inside—and they were prepared.

“We wanted to be aggressive and put some pressure on them from the start,” Bumbrey said. “I thought we did a good job of that early. I think we got a little impatient in the third quarter and let them leak back in.”

Williams and backcourt mates Sierra Leacock and Danielle Bumbrey kept the turnover count down, while forward Brianne Stephenson and Williams helped offset the Wolverines’ height advantage with their scrappy play inside.

Down by five points after one quarter, JM scored the first 17 points of the second quarter to take a 32–26 lead at the half. They connected on five of nine 3-point attempts, including three by Leacock, who finished with 15 points.

“It all came down to us realizing that this could be our last game,” said Leacock. “Se we had to tighten up an play our game.”

Despite the JM comeback, 6–foot-3 power forward Stephanie Purnell and 5–11 Region II, Division 3 player of the year Sarah Hardison turned the tables in the third quarter for the Wolverines.

Purnell grabbed nine of her game-high 11 rebounds and Hardison scored 10 of her team-high 12 points after the break to to fuel a second-half surge. Purnell’s putback made it 44–43, to give Woodgrove its first lead since the second quarter.

Purnell scored again with 5:40 left in the fourth quarter to put the Wolverines in front, 51–43. But Williams and Leacock wouldn’t let the Yellow Jackets fold.

Leacock drained another 3-pointer and Williams continued pushing the ball up the court and scoring with her athleticism. Her 5-foot bank shot trimmed the deficit to 53–50 with 32 seconds remaining.

Trailing by three points, the Yellow Jackets opted to play for a steal or turnover instead of fouling in the closing seconds and they finally ran out of time.

Williams’ final bucket with seven seconds left followed a driving layup by the Wolverines’ Maggie Bruxton, and JM’s season came to an end.

“It’s going to be hard next year with our seniors gone, but we’re going to work through it,” said Stephenson, who missed the final three minutes of the contest with a sprained ankle. “It’s been a special season. We’d never had this experience or been this far before.”

    Woodgrove 16 10 18 11 — 55

    J. Monroe 11 21 11 9 — 52

    Scoring

    Woodgrove (25–4): Brooke Basinger 6, Maggie Buxton 9, Linsey Fagan 10, Sarah Hardison 12, Keira Hornyak 0, Kaitlyn Lorinchak 3, Halle Lynch 5, Stephanie Purnell 8, Ashley Tilly 2. Totals: 21 9-22 55.

    James Monroe (21–8): Danielle Bumbrey 4, Cara Lambert 0, Sierra Leacock 15, Rhonda Lincoln 0, Jazmyn Moore 0, Brianne Stephenson 4, Lyric Swain 0, Myasia Williams 0, Brittany Williams 4, Keyontae Williams 25. Totals: 17 12-18 52.

    Three-point goals: Woodgrove 4 (B. Basinger 2, L. Fagan 2). James Monroe 6 (D. Bumbrey, S. Leacock 4, K. Williams).

Steve Franzello: 540/374-5440

sports@freelancestar.com

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