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*Updated* SJ girls beat South Lakes 55-53 in Group AAA state quaterfinals Friday night in Fairfax as Nicole Floyd and Amanda Hinton combined for 30 points.
SJ girls win state quarterfinals
© Gainesville Times*Updated at 2:13 p.m. on March 4, 2013*
The Stonewall Jackson varsity girls basketball team clinched a spot in the Group AAA state semi-finals by defeating South Lakes 55 to 53 on Friday night in Fairfax at Robinson Secondary School.
It marked the first close game for the Raiders since they snuck by George Washington (Danville) 41 to 39 on Feb. 19 during the Northwest Regional quarter finals.
South Lakes took a led for the first half of the first quarter, putting Stonewall in the unusual position of trailing for any significant amount of time in a game.
Sophomore shooting guard Rachel Burns finally gave the Raiders their first two-point cushion by hitting a 3-pointer in front of the Seahawks' bench with 1:35 remaining in the first quarter.
An offensive rebound and bucket by star forward Nicole Floyd put Stonewall up four but South Lakes closed the gap to 14 to 12 by the end of the period.
The Raiders took charge from the get-go in the second quarter with an 11 to 1 run to rake a 25 to 13 advantage.
However, South Lakes closed the period on an 11 to 4 spree that kept the game within five points at halftime.
Martinez adjusted Stonewall's defensive set up after halftime to a full-court press, which is classic Stonewall basketball but something the head coach has been wary about over-utilizing during the playoffs.
"We realized that we were making more stops and steals on the press," said Rachel Burns.
"We knew they didn't handle pressure well," added the coach, later mentioning that the switch-up was intended to catch South Lakes off-guard.
Stonewall relinquished its lead with 1:48 to go in the third quarter, forcing Martinez to call a time out. Her team eventually faced a 37 to 36 deficit at the end third quarter.
A pair of foul shots by senior point guard Amanda Hinton allowed Stonewall to reclaim the lead at the start of the fourth quarter.
In fact, her nine-for-nine performance at the line on the night supplied Stonewall with its margin of victory for the night as the team as a whole missed only two free throws all game while South Lakes missed four of its 12 foul shots.
Floyd and shooting guard Hayley Nordike put up back-to-back buckets on the opposite ends of a South Lakes time out to give the Raiders some breathing room.
When South Lakes finally pulled with 46 to 44 with 5:05 left in regulation, the game hit a bit of a holding pattern as neither team could score.
Martinez opted for a big risk by playing Floyd during the fourth quarter as her power forward had four fouls on her already, one shy of the ejection point.
Even though she only scored two points, Sydney Jordan became Stonewall's go-to person in the paint offensively and the 6-footer supplied a big presence on defense, successfully forcing turnovers when Martinez forced Floyd to the bench.
Burns mentioned Jordan tipped some loose balls and helped produce "lots of steals," something Martinez credited to the sophomore's large wingspan.
"(Her) main thing was to clog up the middle," said the coach. "Her length just creates so much havoc."
A toe-curling moment for the Stonewall faithful came when Floyd reached out to grab a pass and bumped into a Seahawks' opponent, causing a referee to blow the whistle.
It turned out the foul didn't go against Floyd though, bringing a sigh of relief from the Raider stands.
What broke open the match for good though came with 2:32 left on the game clock.
Nordike passed the ball to Hinton, who then dished it right back to the sophomore.
From way downtown, Nordike heaved up an arching shot that sank through the net and brought the crowd to its feet, putting Stonewall ahead for good at 49 to 44.
"She knew exactly what she wanted to do with the basketball," said Martinez.
A big three like that is "an emotional blow," according to South Lakes head coach Christy Winters Scott.
However, she added, "Our kids never stopped fighting."
Three players did end up in double figurers on the night: 6-foot-4 center Abigail Rendle (16 points), Princess Aghayere (11 points) and Mary Severin (10 points) while sasha Prei (8 points), Gabrielle Schultz (6 points) and Caitlin Jensen (2 points) also contributed offensively.
Hinton came up big down the stretch though for Stonewall with four successful foul shots. Those became crucial when Floyd intentionally gave up playing aggressive defense and allowed a lay-up with just 15.5 seconds to go as she would avoid fouling out.
Scott called timeout, down 55 to 51, afterward and her team actually picked up a steal but lost the ball at half court, fouling Stonewall in the process.
A two-point buzzer beater ended up being all the Seahawks could produce though as the Raiders hung on for victory.