By Owen Gotimer
Leesburg (February 19, 2017) – In front of a home crowd in Leesburg, Tuscarora High School sisters Kennedy and Isabellah Middleton put on a show as the duo combined for 30 points, 16 rebounds, 4 assists and 4 steals, in the Lady Huskies, 53-38, win over Briar Woods High School in the Conference 14 championship on February 17.
“A lot of teams focus on Kennedy. They were doubling her tonight,” Tuscarora head coach Michael Newkirk said. “She pitched the basketball out and girls knocked down shots. We always talk about being ready. The girls have a trust and confidence in each other to be ready when their numbers are called.”
While Kennedy drew much of the attention throughout the game, Isabellah went double-double with 11 points and 11 rebounds. Tuscarora senior forward Brenna Cochran added 6 points and 10 rebounds in the win, even though the Lady Huskies struggled to break away early on in the contest.
Tuscarora didn’t catch its big offensive break until midway through the fourth quarter when the Lady Falcons missed the front-end of back-to-back one-and-one opportunities in a 6-point game.
“We made stops, we got boards and our girls played aggressive and played strong on defense. We gave ourselves a chance there,” Briar Woods head coach Chris Pasternak said. “I feel bad for our girls that we weren’t able to take advantage of it.”
On Tuscarora’s two ensuing possessions, senior guard Ashley Leonard knocked down a three-point and long two-point jump shot to expand the Lady Huskies’ lead to 11, from which Briar Woods would never recover.
“There was a big stalemate at the beginning,” Kennedy said. “We needed to attack the basket more and take our shots.”
Where the Lady Huskies really excelled was on the defensive side of the ball, forcing 22 Lady Falcons’ turnovers.
“We place so much importance on defense. That’s where it starts for us; that’s our anchor,” Newkirk said. “No other team in the conference plays defense like we do.”
Au contraire, coach Newkirk. Tuscarora’s 22 forced turnovers, just barely exceeded Briar Woods’ 19 forced turnovers in the conference final.
Led by senior forward Tara Frick’s 13 points, Briar Woods used its guard play and length to its advantage on both the offensive and defensive ends.
“Their guard play makes you be a little more honest. We didn’t push up to full-court pressure, because we wanted to keep their guards in front,” Newkirk said. “And their length. Tara Frick had 13 points tonight. Our girls were playing defense with their hands straight up, but we couldn’t stop her.”
Even with Frick’s 13-point performance, the Lady Falcons missed opportunities late to draw within striking distance.
“Tuscarora is a great team. They’re well coached. We’re just a little step behind,” Pasternak said. “When you have a chance to make a run against them, you have to jump on it. Unfortunately, we couldn’t make the play when we needed it.”
Briar Woods is back in action on February 20 when they host Conference 15 No. 3 Stafford High School in Ashburn in a VHSL 5A North region first round match up.
Tuscarora gets a night off before hosting the winner of the first round clash between Conference 16 No. 2 Albemarle and Conference 13 No. 3 Thomas Jefferson on February 21.
“We’re trying to keep our record going and let everyone know why we’re the No. 1 team in the conference,” Kennedy said. “We’re not just a team of girls, we’re a family.”
|Lady Huskies Totals||53||36||6||14||0||20-for-28|
|Lady Falcons Totals||38||18||3||9||4||12-for-19|