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Prep Girls Basketball: Cyclones stay calm

BY NATHAN WARTERS

THE FREE LANCE-STAR

Eastern View’s once-comfortable lead was down to five points heading into the fourth quarter of Tuesday’s home game against King George. During a break in action, Cyclones coach Mike McCombs knelt in front of his players and gave them a message they’ve heard often this season.

“Experience pays off,” he said with a confident tone. “You know what to do.”

The players nodded in unison. And like a battle-tested team should, it went out and finished off the Foxes in a 10-point victory.

Eastern View (15–0, 9–0) sits atop the Battlefield District standings, one game ahead of perennial power Courtland (15–2, 8–1). The Cyclones have had strong teams in the past, but this one is different. Chemistry and maturity have allowed it to take another step toward elite status.

Tough losses and gritty wins in the past have taught this Eastern View team to take no lead for granted and to look at no deficit as too big to overcome.

“We have so much fight and heart,” Cyclones senior guard Ciara Jackson said. “We don’t really get stressed out. We just know that we can do it. We keep on fighting and never let down.”

That was never more apparent than during a difficult stretch of games two weeks ago. The Cyclones had to face Spotsylvania and Courtland on the road on consecutive nights, and despite stern challenges from two of the district’s top teams, Eastern View was victorious against both.

The Cyclones lost two double-digit leads to the Knights before closing out the win, and they trailed by 13 at halftime against the Cougars before storming back.

The Eastern View–Courtland rematch was originally scheduled for tonight, but it was postponed because of winter weather. No makeup date has been set.

“I think we’re playing together,” said McCombs, a defensive-minded coach who has been at Eastern View since it opened in 2008. “I think I’ve got 11 kids on the team that are all working together right now. I tell the kids every day, as long as we work together and as long as nobody cares who gets the credit, we’re going to be a good team. Everything is working together right now.”

Eastern View’s starting lineup consists of five seniors, including four-year varsity players Taylor Shanks, Randi Mauck and Shirlena Bowles and twins Ciara and Tiara Jackson, both three-year varsity players. Bench player Sierra Mills is also in her third year of varsity action.

Ten of the 11 players on the Cyclones’ roster had varsity experience before this year. They’ve forged a close bond from all the time they’ve been together.

“We’re like a family,” Mauck said. “We don’t break when things get tough.”

The Cyclones have won at least nine games in district play the last three seasons, and they made it as far as the first-round of the Group AA, Division 4 playoffs in 2011. But the seniors can sense something special brewing this year.

“It feels really really good, [being 15–0] the first time. We’re making history,” Shanks said.

It doesn’t get any easier for the Cyclones, who have another game coming up against Courtland. The Cougars beat Eastern View three times last year by a combined 80 points and are still smarting from a 51–49 home loss to the Cyclones back on Jan. 12.

“They’ve definitely had our number, and they’re still the team to beat,” McCombs said of the Cougars. “We’re still working to get to where they are.”

But Eastern View has closed the gap, and it has the chance of breaking even more new ground this season.

“We’ve got to just keep calm and play like we’ve been playing,” Mauck said. “I believe everyone has really stepped up their game, knowing that this year is really the year we can do something with Eastern View basketball.”

Nathan Warters: 540/374-5442

nwarters@freelancestar.com

Permalink: http://news.fredericksburg.com/sports/2013/01/25/prep-girls-basketball-cyclones-stay-calm/

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