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Woodgrove wins first state playoff game

photoThe Woodgrove Wolverines defeated James Monroe, 55-52, in the VHSL state girls basketball quarterfinals Saturday at VCU. The second-year Wolverines won their first-ever state playoff game.—Times-Mirror File Photo/Carl Lukat

The first state tournament game ever played by the Woodgrove Wolverines’ second-year girls basketball program resulted in a come-from-behind 55-52 win over James Monroe March 3 at the Siegel Center in Richmond.

“When I took this job I told the players and their parents, before they graduate we want to get to Richmond,” said Woodgrove coach Kevin Copley, piloting a seniorless 25-4 squad that has specialized in narrow victories. The VHSL Division 3 state quarterfinal was the 11th time this season the Wolverines have won by 10 points or fewer.

Woodgrove will play Robert E. Lee in the state semifinals March 6, 3 p.m. at the Siegel Center. The winner advances to the state championship game March 10.

“Hopefully, today is not the icing on the cake,” Copley added.

In a classic game of runs, Region I champion James Monroe used a barrage of 3-pointers to score 17 straight points in the second quarter, mounting a double-digit lead shortly before halftime.

That prompted Woodgrove guards Sarah Hardison and Maggie Buxton to penetrate the Yellow Jackets’ perimeter defense, opening up space for 6-foot-3 Stephanie Purnell, the tallest player on the court by four inches.

Just before the close of the third quarter, Purnell grabbed an offense rebound and put it back in to move Woodgrove out front.

“When we came back after halftime, we knew we had to step it up and push,” Purnell said. “We finally got comfortable in that atmosphere.”

The lead seesawed twice more in the fourth. After the Wolverines took the lead for good with 3:20 remaining, Woodgrove’s long-armed zone forced the Yellow Jackets into increasingly lower-percentage shots.

Monroe’s Keyontae Williams, her region’s Player of the Year and a Division I college signee, poured in 25 points but was harassed down the stretch.

“We came in thinking that with [Williams] being such a good penetrator, our zone defense would be our best best to win,” Copley said. “When they caught fire from the 3-point line it took us by surprise a little bit…. We went to our bread-and-butter with man-to-man and that helped with the outside shooting problem.”

Copley added that he employed a box-and-one strategy down the stretch to stop Williams and thwart a Monroe comeback of its own.

The Jackets finished shooting less than 35 percent while Woodgrove shot better than 41 percent.

Hardison, Buxton and Purnell each put in most of their points in the second half. Linsey Fagan provided sharp shooting, drilling two of three 3-point shots and all four free throw tries.

Copley discussed Woodgrove’s accomplishment of making the state tournament’s final four in just their second year of play—using a rotation of juniors and sophomores and a roster with no seniors.

“I think it says something about the young ladies in our program, on and off the court,” Copley said. “They care about each other and when they step on the floor, they don’t want to let each other down.”

Woodgrove 55, James Monroe 52

W: Hardison 12, Fagan 10, Buxton 9, Purnell 8, Basinger 6, Lynch 5, Lorinchak 3, Tilly 2

JM: K. Williams 25, Leacock 15, Bumbrey 4, Stephenson 4, B. Williams 4

Halftime: James Monroe 32-26

3-pointers: W 4 (Basinger 2, Fagan 2); JM 6 (Leacock 4, Bumbrey, K. Williams)

Free throws: W (9 of 22); JM (12 of 18)



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