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Eagles can’t recover from early Colonels’ blitz
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Franklin County’s Errin Brooks (40) delivers a pass from the post as two William Fleming defenders collapse on her. (Staff Photo by Steven Marsh)

Friday, February 1, 2013

By STEVEN MARSH - Sports Editor

Based on current events, Western Valley District girls' basketball rivals Franklin County and William Fleming, all too familiar foes in the past, are on course for another possible quartet of encounters on the hardwood.

The Colonels (6-1 in the WVD, 14-4 overall), paced by the play of seniors Ryjae Anderson and Keke Haynes and the balanced scoring received from six support performers, enhanced the likelihood that the league's final championship would be decided by the outcome of a neutral-floor, winner-take-all playoff game with a 72-66 triumph over the Eagles (5-1 in the WVD, 13-5 overall) Tuesday night at Samuel M. Hawkins-Gymnasium.

William Fleming, which led by as many as 15 points twice (28-13 and 30-15) in the second quarter, was able to withstand a 44-point second half by FCHS by scoring 39 points of its own after intermission.

The Eagles cut the Colonels' lead to two points, 38-36, near the midpoint of the third quarter and to two twice, 55-53 and 57-55, in the final stanza, but saw those last pair of rallies die on the metaphorical vine by leaving points on the floor and with the commission of turnovers.

Anderson, a senior who netted a game-best 24 points and completed a double-double with 13 rebounds, tallied her team's final points from the field with 3:24 to play, and the Colonels secured their victory by making 9 of 12 tries from the free-throw line thereafter.

With the victory, William Fleming, the WVD's reigning champion, stops a two-game losing streak to FCHS and avenges a 27-point loss to the Eagles from earlier this season -- a 33-point turnaround of fortune for the Colonels, a year removed from a runner-up showing in the Northwest Regionals and an appearance in the Group AAA state tournament.

Charmaine Hairston, last year's district Player of the Year, and Zarkia Mattox accounted for more than half of the Eagles' points. Hairston, who ranks second in career scoring in girls' basketball at FCHS, finished with 22 points and Mattox netted 15.

Hairston and Mattox combined to make 13 of the Eagles' 24 field goals.

Mattox completed a double-double with 13 rebounds.

Anderson and Haynes, who finished with 12 points, accounted for half of the Colonels' points.

Now with a one-half game lead over the Eagles in the championship chase, the Colonels will clinch a tie for the title by beating Patrick Henry for a second time this season in a game that was scheduled to be played Thursday night.

FCHS needs wins over Halifax County tonight and PH next week to match the Colonels' possible 7-1 district mark and force a playoff game akin to a year ago.

Regardless of the outcome of such a possible game, the Eagles and the Colonels would be the odds-on favorites to meet in the finals of the last WVD postseason tournament later this month.

Over the past three-plus seasons, FCHS and William Fleming have met 12 times and the Eagles hold a 7-5 advantage in that set of games. With a combined seven district championships and four postseason tournament titles between them, the Eagles and the Colonels are the WVD's most decorated teams since 2009.

If there is a playoff game, it would be the Eagles' fourth in league history and the Colonels' third in four years.

"Franklin County and William Fleming go really hard after each other and it's always been that way since I've been (the Colonels') head coach,' said William Fleming bench boss Ron (Champ) Hubbard, who has been at the helm for five years. "(The players) are familiar with one another; they've played AAU (basketball) sometimes together and they know one another.'

FCHS entered the game having won its previous five district games by an average of 31.6 points.

Was the earlier encounter, a 77-50 Eagles' triumph, an aboration?

"I think it was a coaching error,' Hubbard said. "We pressed them early and (Franklin County) got a bunch of lay-ups. ...We pressed them early and they had a remedy for it.

...Our kids were shocked...Our tactic at the beginning was to shock them, but they shocked us. This game, we were more prepared. That's the luxury of playing twice (in district play).'

William Fleming built a double-digit lead early in the second quarter and maintained it through the initial stages of the third period. The Colonels would achieve a 10-point spread again (69-59) with 1:01 showing before the Eagles closed the difference to four (70-66) with a series of baskets in the wanning seconds.

"I think the case tonight was that we did not execute at all in the first half,' Eagles head coach Anne Crutchfield said. "I think we came out uptight and did not execute.' In the whole first half we didn't execute on either end of the floor.'

At intermission, the Colonels owned a 2 to 1 rebounding edge.

"We didn't box out well at all in the first half,' Crutchfield said.

After the Eagles cut the deficit to two in the third quarter, the Colonels responded with a 7-1 run. Their lead would reach eight again, 47-39, before FCHS came back with a 7-2 spurt that ended with a Taylor Greenway basket at the start of the fourth quarter.

Hairston made the count 55-53 with a deuce at the 5:54 mark and after Mattox scored with 4:48 to play, the difference was two again, 57-55.

Over the next three minutes, sophomore Miranda Crockett would miss four free throws and Crutchfield would be assesed a technical foul after protesting a no-decision by the game's officials on which team earned possession of a loose ball.

The Colonels were given the ball on the alternating possession rule.

That stretch ended with 1:56 left with William Fleming in front by eight points, 65-57.

"If we'd have been able to tie it, things may have changed, but give William Fleming credit -- they made their free throws when they needed to and we did not execute at all from the free-throw line,' Crutchfield said.

"The one thing about our kids is that we can put up points pretty quickly. I just told them at halftime, 'Do you want to play Franklin County basketball or do you want to play William Fleming basketball. It boils down to a choice. We can go out in the second half down by 11 and get back in (the game) quick with defense and play Franklin County basketball. You've got to make the choice.' Crutchfield said.

Destani Mitchell, Mattox, Hairston and Crockett produced the Eagles' 11 points during their late charge.

"(Franklin County) is going to score because they are a scoring team -- you saw how they closed the gap at the end,' Hubbard said. "But a lot of that was we didn't want to touch team and have a foul called.'

The Eagles, who suffered their first loss at home since last season's non-league setback to Stonewall Jackson, were playing their first game since a Jan. 22 rout of district foe George Washington-Danville. Also, they were off for a period of six days between a 44-point home waxing of Halifax and the Danville win.

The reason for the extended exoduses: recent inclement weather has wreaked havoc with FCHS's schedule.

"Having big layoffs have never played to our favor and that was a concern that I had going into the game. I think the first half showed that. We'd only played one game in 14 days,' Crutchfield said.

The Colonels scored the game's first five points, then the Eagles responded with a 9-0 run.

But the Eagles would finish the quarter with only 11 points, while the Colonels went through a stretch where they swished all five of their 3-point field goals.

Trailing 9-7, William Fleming would score 15 of its next 16 points by connecting from long-distance. Haynes started that run with consecutive treys, then Anderson, Savannah Doane and Antavia Stevens would deliver from beyond the arc.

"The last couple of days in practice, we talked about the fact that they are such a good-shooting team, and that we'd have to close out fast (defensively) on the wing to make sure that they didn't get the open look from (3-point range). We just didn't execute,' Crutchfield said.

"Franklin County knows our kids are going to knock down (perimeter shots) if they have the opportunity,' Hubbard said. "We work on shooting just like they do. We know that Charmaine is going to shoot threes, we know No. 21 (Daishi Dudley) is going to shoot threes.

"We know each other. I could coach Franklin County and (Anne) could coach my team. We are that similar. We are mirror-images of each other,' Hubbard said. "Our intent was to go inside, but if they're leaving us open, we're going to shoot it (from the perimeter). That's always been my tactic as long as we get back on defense,' Hubbard said.

Anderson, who wore a mask to protect the nose that she broke earlier in the year, scored 15 of her team's 33 first-half points. She was 8 of 8 from the free-throw line in the first 16 minutes and was a perfect 10 of 10 before missing two tries in a row in the fourth quarter.

"She's a gamer and she's been one since her ninth-grade year. This is Ryjae's senior year. KeKe Haynes too. Both of those two were prepared for the game,' Hubbard said.

Mitchell, Hairston, Crockett, Brianna Taylor, Anderson and Haynes all finished the game with four fouls. Forty-three team fouls were called.

The two teams combined to shoot 62 free throws; William Fleming was 29 of 38 (76.3 percent) from the line, while FCHS was 15 of 24 (62.5 percent).

Yes, it was a physical contest.

"I think we played an intelligent game and we played with a lot of pride. We were determined to do well,' Hubbard said. "It worked out for us tonight. We know this was not our best game and that we've got some work to do. ...If we are blessed enough to beat Patrick Henry, we'll (probably) have to get ready for a playoff game again.'


WILLIAM FLEMING -- 20/13/16/23 -- 72

FRANKLIN COUNTY -- 11/11/22/22 -- 66

WILLIAM FLEMING (72) -- Stevens 1 5-8 8, Graves 2 3-3 7, Lee 0 2-2 2, Doane 2 3-4 8, Haynes 3 4-4 12, Morgan 2 0-0 4, Anderson 6 11-13 24, Keeling 3 1-4 7, Booker 0 0-0 0. Totals: 19 29-38 72.

FRANKLIN COUNTY (66) -- Hairston 6 9-11 22, Crockett 2 2-6 6, Mattox 7 1-2 15, Dudley 1 0-0 3, Mitchell 3 0-0 6, Taylor 3 1-3 8, E. Brooks 0 0-0 0, Greenway 2 2-2 6. Totals: 24 15-24 66.

Haliftime score: 33-22 William Fleming. Three-point field goals: Stevens (WF), Doane (WF), Anderson (WF), Haynes (WF) 2, Hairston (FC), Dudley (FC), Taylor (FC). Total fouls: William Fleming 17 Franklin County 26 Fouled out: none. Technical foul: Franklin County bench (Crutchfield).

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