After brief scare against OP, Stonewall girls stay perfect
© Prince William Times
At face value, it's hard to justify why eighth-year Osbourn Park varsity girls basketball head coach Clifton Gorham set defeating undefeated Stonewall Jackson as his 7-10 team's expectation rather than just as a lofty goal.
The 58-40 final score in favor of the Raiders at their home court in Manassas on Friday night would seem to reinforce that narrative too that this was more of a case of wishful thinking than dealing with the reality of playing the Washington, D.C. Metro region's top-ranked team.
Yet the 37-35 lead held by the Yellow Jackets with 1:40 left in the third quarter tells a different story: Osbourn Park came ready to compete and gave 18-0 Stonewall one of its biggest scares of the season, much more so than 72-44 loss to the same team on Dec. 5 suggested.
If there's any lesson that came from the night, Stonewall senior Sydney Jordan summed up the obvious: "Don't take any game for granted."
Ashlee White proved that Osbourn Park showed up with a mission in mind. The junior point guard drained three triples in the first quarter alone and four total before halftime, keeping OP within striking distance of their Conference 8 rival at halftime, down just 31-25.
In fact, the three-year starter and future NCAA Division I-A recruit led all scorers by night's end with 20 points.
"I think it was my team getting me up around the screens and my confidence was up," said White about her first half performance.
The difference is that Stonewall senior Rachel Burns put up 19 points, junior Genesis Parker added 18 and Jordan contributed 10 points while no other Osbourn Park player hit double digits.
Instead, Nadia Davidson's 7 points turned out to be OP's second-best performance, matching the seven points put up by Stonewall senior guard Haley Nordike, the Raiders' fourth-best shooter on the night.
"With G (Genesis), she's an all-around player," surmised Burns, later adding about Nordike,"When she's open, she's going to hit that shot."
White, Davidson and Kylee Johnson (5 points) all sank three-pointers for Osbourn Park as did Nordike, Parker and Burns for Stonewall. Megan Onyundo (4 points) sank both of her two-point shots in the third quarter for the Yellow Jackets, the only period in the game OP outscored Stonewall, 12-10.
Both teams featured six members scoring in total. Makayla Nichols and Megan Callahan put up a pair of points each for Stonewall in the first half and Taelor Carter and Kathering Douglas both adding two points for Osbourn Park.
Stonewall adjusted to the 5-foot-3 point guard's perimeter game by sticking the 6-foot-tall Jordan against her as the top player in a diamond-style defense.
While many short guards may be able to use their quickness to their advantage against a substantially taller defender, Jordan used her wingspan and her own quickness to keep up with or best White move for move during the second half.
The James Madison University-bound senior created steals, turnovers and fast-break opportunities that ultimately held the Raiders turn a two-point deficit into an 18-point blowout.
"She's really long," explained Parker about Jordan."Her defense is really good. I think she has the best defense on the team."
Likewise, White mentioned she had to play "more physical" against Jordan.
Only four of White's 20 points came during the second half: three on one shot in the third quarter and one on a foul shot in the fourth quarter, the only free throw made by Osbourn Park out of the four team attempts from the line all night.
Meanwhile, Stonewall hit 14 of 20 free throws, meaning the Raiders drew five times as many fouls as Osbourn Park and did a better job of converting their chances at the line.
"Coach just said, 'Attack,'' said Parker about creating free throw opportunities.
In the fourth quarter alone, Parker sank four out of six of her free throws, the same ratio converted by Burns in the first half.
Osbourn Park did succeed on Friday night where many other teams simply failed against Stonewall, including elite teams on the Raiders' schedule, in playing even or nearly with Stonewall through three quarters.
Maxpreps.com ranked Stonewall fourth in the state as of Monday morning, trailing only two Christian schools and Group 5A powerhouse Princess Anne. That means Stonewall entered this week as the topped-ranked Group 6A school in Virginia.
As for the Yellow Jackets, that game though also fell in line with a tougher reality which is OP's difficulty in closing out games against strong opponents.
Stonewall outscored Osbourn Park 17-3 in the final 8-minute frame after entering the fourth quarter only ahead 41-37.
"We noticed that they were flowing up defensively," said Burns, adding that her own team's physical endurance allowed the home team to avoid the same fate.
"We're working on it every practice," added Jordan about endurance.
One week prior, OP lost in an overtime heart-breaker 58-55 at home against Battlefield. The team also came back from a 25-7 halftime deficit against Forest Park
on Dec. 16 to outscore the host Bruins 30-17 in the second half, but still fell on the short end of a 42-37 loss.
"Sometimes in that 32 minutes, we'll have a three-minute break down," explained Gorham.