Leesburg, Va. — The Tuscarora High School girls basketball team thrives when they’re scoring in transition, and that transition offense actually starts on the defensive end. Led by the length and athleticism of junior forward Alysa Carrigan, the Huskies forced 28 turnovers on 20 steals as they cruised to a, 70-41, win over the Louisa County Lions in a VHSL Class 4 State quarterfinal on March 3 in Leesburg.
“We’ve been preaching to them down the stretch that teams win state championships. When you get to this level, it has to be a team effort,” Tuscarora head coach Tayler Dodson said. “We need Grace [Middleton] and Alysa to have their game, but we need everyone else to come in and play hard minutes.”[adrotate banner=”54″]
The Lions—who won the Class 4 State championship in 2021—got on the board quickly as star senior Sylvie Jackson scored a pair of buckets in the first 90 seconds. But on the Lions’ third trip the Tuscarora defense showed their first bright spot as Carrigan picked off a pass and went coast-to-coast to give the Huskies their first points of the game.
After another Jackson basket made the score 6-2, the next five Louisa County possessions ended in Tuscarora steals with the Huskies converting on three of those possession changes to take their first least of the night 8-6.
Despite Tuscarora’s defensive dominance, the Huskies and Lions ended the first quarter tied at 10-10.
However, the momentum the Huskies had built late in the first quarter carried over into the second quarter as Carrigan continued to frustrate the Lions adding five steals in the second quarter alone as Tuscarora started to build a lead.
“We switched up our press early on, and I was able to get a couple of steals, so we stuck with that press,” Carrigan said. “I had a lot of great back up behind me, so I could take some risks.”
Led offensively by Carrigan and senior point guard Grace Middleton, the Huskies used all those steals to lead to quick and easy buckets on the other end before taking a 27-21 lead into the locker room.
“We feel like our third quarter right now is the strongest part of our game. We’ve come out of the locker room recharged and reenergized,” Dodson said. “We know we’re going to play fast, we know teams are going to get tired, and we know our press is eventually going to kick in, so we just try to preach staying within our game plan.”
And right on queue, the first five Louisa County possessions of the third quarter set the tone for the rest of the night: Carrigan steal, Carrigan steal, Carrigan steal, Carrigan blocked shot, Carrigan defensive rebound.
The third steal in that run gave Carrigan her double-double with 10 points and 10 steals at the point, however, the junior phenom was not done just yet. A huge second half meant Carrigan finished with 21 points, 5 rebounds, 6 assists, 13 steals, and 3 blocked shots. Those 13 steals set a new Tuscarora single-game steals mark.
Carrigan’s defense kept the Lions out of rhythm and allowed the Huskies to settle in offensively as Middleton continued to dominate, finishing with a game-high 29 points while adding 9 boards, 3 assists, and 4 steals.
Tuscarora also got three huge triples from senior shooting guard Camryn Worley and eight big points off the bench from junior guard Jessica Owusu.
On top of her three three-pointers, Worley also did about as good as one can defending Jackson, who scored a team-high 17 points.
“I think that we followed the scouting report really well,” Middleton said. “We knew who to guard, how to guard, and to be up on everyone else besides Sylvie. Then we just grabbed the rebounds and got out in transition.”
Following a regular season overtime win over rival Heritage on January 6, Dodson said the Huskies would need to be scoring 70 points a night by the time the playoffs started, if they wanted to compete for the state championship. Despite hitting that 70+ point mark just twice in the regular season while averaging 55 points per game, the Huskies seemed to be clicking on all cylinders when they cruised past the Lions with 70 points in their state quarterfinal.
The Huskies (26-2, 15-0) will look to ride their defense and transition offense into their state semifinal where they’ll meet Region 4D Champion Pulaski County on March 6 in Christiansburg. A win against Cougars will earn the Huskies their first state championship game appearance in program history.
“We’ve been preaching team defense, team offense—if you’re open you have got to take those shots with confidence and you’ve got to hit shots. I think when you’re on a state run, that’s basically what it comes down to,” Dodson said. “Big players are always going to play big, but what teams are going to step up and meet the moment where it’s at and play team basketball?”
Louisa County Stats