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Sun., Jan. 27 - sj-girls-enter-final-week-of-regular-season-in-total-command
SJ girls enter final week of regular season in total command
© Gainesville TimesIt's almost comical to think that, at one point this season, the Stonewall Jackson varsity girls basketball team lost two-thirds of its games and tied for the worst record among Cedar Run District teams.
Of course, that came only three games deep into the season.
After that initial hiccup, the Raiders won of 14 of their next 15 matches, including every head-to-head competition against Cedar Run District opponents.
Stonewall entered the final week of the regular season at 15-3 overall and 7-0 in the district, two wins away from securing yet another regular season Cedar Run title.
That would automatically grant Stonewall home-court advantage throughout the district tournament and a home game in the Northwest Regional tournament.
On Saturday afternoon, the Raiders wrapped up their non-conference schedule with a 66-56 victory over T.C. Williams at home in Manassas.
Beating the Titans is a solid feat in itself: T.C. Williams (10-7 overall, 7-2 district) entered the game in second place for the Patriot District, only one game behind top-seeded West Springfield.
Four Raiders put up double digits on the scoreboard, including game-high scorer Nicole Floyd.
The junior forward earned 24 points as part of her double-double while senior point guard Amanda Hinton contributed another dozen.
Sophomore point guard Sydney Jordan added another 11 points and senior forward Taylor Character chipped in 10.
Rachel Burns, a sophomore shooting guard who scored six points, explained that the late-season games allow Stonewall to experiment with defensive set-ups, so the Raiders opted for a one-three-one zone defense that generated "a whole bunch of steals."
"Everybody's goal is to be state champions but we want to build on our defense," added Floyd. "At states, zone isn't always going to work."
Burns mentioned that the defense also focused on trying to contain the Titans' junior shooting guard Angie Schedler.
Schedler scored at least 11 points seven times this season, including four games where she hit more than 20 points.
The Raiders limited her to just eight points, tied for her second-lowest total during the season.
Meanwhile, the team's two other leading scorers Christian Roberts and Rejoice Spivey each put up 16 points but the rest of the team aside from Schedler combined for just 16 total points.
Overall, T.C. Williams actually had a better distance game than Stonewall.
However, the Raiders found two ways inside the arc to make up for that.
Junior shooting guard Kayla Hix hit the home team's only 3-pointer of the game while T.C. Williams sank four deep balls, two of which came from Schedler (Spivey and sophomore point guard Megan Laychak hit the others).
Instead, Stonewall worked the ball to Floyd down low as she sank 11 of the team's 24 deuces throughout the afternoon. The Titans had 18 such buckets.
"She knows that every time she touches the ball, she's going to be crowded," said Stonewall head coach Diana Martinez about Floyd.
That's where her guards and fellow post players came in handy, as she could dish the ball out to Hinton, Jordan or Character if she felt jammed.
"She needs to be kicking it out for them," added the coach.
The Raiders also drained 75 percent of their free throws (15 of 20). T.C. Williams missed nine out of 17 shots, which virtually made up the difference in the game.
Through 18 games, Stonewall outscored its opposition by a combined 400 points: 1,077 to 677, or roughly 22 points (60 to 38) per outing.
By comparison, the second-place team in the Cedar Run District, Battlefield (12-6 overall, 6-2 district), scored 858 points over the same number of games.
Floyd generally averages a double-double per game for points and rebounds and is among the area's top scorers with more than 18 points per game.
When it comes to putting Floyd in position to score, Martinez singled out Hinton for "pitching the ball ahead on rebounds" and setting up the team's half-court offense.
At the same time, Sophomore point guard Hayley Nordike is also responsible for directing traffic and kicking the ball underneath the hoop to Stonewall's bigs down low.
Hinton, Nordike and Jordan all serve as the Raiders' chief ball handlers while Floyd and Character take care of the post play and grab offensive rebounds.
Though Floyd has an obvious height advantage at 6-foot-2, having the 5-foot-9 Character at forward can help if a defense swarms Stonewall's superstar.
"Nicole can just dump it down to her to score," said Martinez about Character, who she said is also close to averaging a double-double for the season with points and rebounds.
Stonewall Jackson closes out the regular season on Friday at home against Osbourn. Game time is set for 6 p.m., with the boys game between the same two teams following afterward.
According to Martinez, her team is not focusing so much on picking apart opponents at this point in the season as much as improving its own game.
That includes putting pressure on the ball and connecting spots on defense.
"Right now, we really want to focus on us," she said.