Raiders one win away from claiming championship
In years past, a typical Stonewall Jackson varsity girls basketball victory included a monster run of some sort that would either establish the Raiders' dominance on the floor early or catapult the team to the finish line.
That Raiders' team of yore came back with a fury during the Group 6A state tournament semifinals against Bethel to the tune of a 64-48 win in a game that was much closer than the final score indicated.
North Region champion Stonewall routed Bethel, the South Region runner-up, with a 16-0 run between the third and fourth quarter to turn a 3-point deficit into a 13-point lead in Fairfax at Robinson Secondary School.
Stonewall entered the final frame up by just one point at 38-37 but pulled out a 16-point victory in part due to clutch free throw shooting as the Raiders only missed two of their 18 foul shots down the stretch.
Star senior forward Nicole Floyd led all scorers with 28 points while sophomore Sydney Jordan ended up in double digits too with 12 points, including a team-high six made foul shots on eight attempts.
Both ended up with double-doubles as Floyd hauled in 11 boards and Jordan added 10.
Junior guard Rachel Burns hit four field goals and one from the line to end up with nine points; Genesis Parker added seven points; Hayley Nordike sank five foul shots; and Kayla Hix came in off the bench to hit one of the team's two second quarter 3-pointers, with the other coming from Floyd.
Floyd sank her triple from the top of the key and Hix followed suit with burying one from the left baseline, helping the Raiders take a 30-26 lead going into halftime.
After the Wake Forest University recruit Floyd missed layups, she responded with two jump shots and her downtown bomb.
"She just let it fly," said Stonewall head coach Diana Martinez.
Martinez mentioned that the Raiders' distance game helped free up Floyd, who was double teamed from the start of the game as part of the Bruins' pressure defense.
During halftime, Martinez said, she talked to the team about the need to stay poised in the second half, which became crucial as Bethel started off the third quarter with a strong hand while the normally sure-handed Parker struggled on the floor, making only one field goal all game.
The sophomore ended up on the bench in the fourth quarter until she mentally recovered following a chat with an assistant coach.
"She let us know she was ready," recalled Martinez.
That's when she "completely switched momentum" for Stonewall and helped guide the offense to transition buckets.
Martinez particularly credited guards Burns and Jordan for stepping up, making shots of their own and finding Floyd in the post.
As the game ran down, Burns, Jordan and Parker "just did a great jo of managing the clock," said the coach.
Stonewall (22-6), the local winner of the regular and post-season Conference 8 titles, is set to tangle with South Region winner Cosby in Richmond on Friday night for the state championship.
The game is set to start 6:30 p.m. on March 14 at the Siegel Center in Richmond, one game after the Potomac boys vie for the Group 5A state title against Henrico at 2 p.m.
Cosby defeated North Region runner-up West Springfield 37-26 on Thursday at the same arena during the first semifinal game.
Stonewall last appeared in the state finals in 2011.
That year, the Raiders lost 65-39 to Princess Anne, which is now a Group 5A school and playing in the state finals for the fourth year in a row Friday at noon.
Princess Anne lost the state title game the last two years in Group AAA play.