GARRISONVILLE — For the past five years, the North Stafford girls basketball team along with coach Trish Oliver have been trying to cross the Potomac.
On Tuesday night, the Wolverines finally succeeded.
No, the reigning Commonwealth District regular season champions didn’t try to avoid the impending snow with a road trip to Maryland. Rather, the Wolverines defeated the visiting Potomac Panthers 55-52 in a Group AAA non-district game for the first time under the tenure of Oliver.
“This was a much need confidence-builder for a young team,” Oliver said after the season-opener for both teams. “There are a lot of kids on this team having to step up into difficult situations and tonight they responded.”
The Panthers, behind the play of Tiffany Jenkins, Stephanie Adkins, Brittany Miller and Erika McDavid, broke to a 25-22 halftime lead and twice increased the lead early in the third quarter on easy baskets by McDavid and Jenkins.
The young North Stafford team answered the run with an 8-0 run at the 5:15 mark of the third quarter and opened a seven-point lead with 2:55 left in the quarter on a nice penetration move by sophomore Ashley Fernow for the 41-34 lead.
Potomac’s Miller responded with a long jumper and Adkins followed with her third 3-pointer of the game. Jenkins then scored the game’s next four points as the visiting Panthers took a two-point lead into the fourth quarter.
During this stretch, the Panthers’ Miller, McDavid and Nicole Carr were dominating the boards. But the winners of four straight district titles would not fold.
Junior guard Lauren Lawson, with her up-tempo style of play, forced the action and scored three points in the first two minutes of the quarter to keep the home team in it. North Stafford’s Jessica Carmon stuck a put-back with 2:50 to play to cut the Panthers lead to 47-46.
Fernow came up with the big play. She rebounded a missed shot and moved down court to set up for a 3-point shot opportunity, when she was fouled.
She hit two of the three free throws and the Wolverines put the ball in the hands of Lawson and Tierra Bumbrey to withstand the Panthers’ noble effort.
Fernow and Bumbrey connected on four straight free throws with less than 20 seconds to play to seal the victory.
“We made a nice run in the third quarter and that kind of sparked the girls,” Oliver said. “It created a little excitement and we were able to get some momentum going. I think at that point they were ready to leave it all out there on the floor and that is the kind of effort we got in the fourth quarter.”
Carmon finished with a team-high 14 points and 10 rebounds while Fernow scored 12 in her first varsity game. Bumbrey, a three-year starter, had 10 points, four steals and four assists on the night.
Potomac’s Jenkins led all scorers with 15 points while Miller, the game’s leading rebounder with 12, poured in 12 points. Adkins had nine points, all coming from beyond the 3-point arc while McDavid hauled down nine rebounds and tallied seven points.
The Wolverines are back in action Wednesday at Stonewall Jackson while the Panthers host Colonial Forge on Thursday.