Vikes steal the show


Special to the Potomac News

& Manassas Journal Messenger

ROCKY MOUNT — Snow and ice took center stage in the Northwest Region girls basketball tournament last week. Wednesday night, something else was in the atmosphere.

A raucous crowd showed up for Franklin County’s first regional playoff home game, but Woodbridge weathered the storm for a 64-42 victory over the Eagles.

The win qualified the Vikings (22-6) for tonight’s regional final against Forest Park, to be held at Hylton, and more importantly earned them a berth in the Group AAA state quarterfinals Saturday. Woodbridge, the defending regional champion, has lost three of four games to Forest Park.

“We’ll win tomorrow,” Woodbridge senior guard Elizabeth Murphy said. “We want it really bad. We know we can do it.”

Franklin County (11-11) saw its season end, but the Eagles can take solace in the fact they were the first team in school history to make the Northwest Region playoffs. Next season begins today.

“We want to get to the next level,” second-year coach Lisa Black said. One of my coaches said, ‘Anything less than this next year is unacceptable.’ This year we stepped on the floor and people said, ‘Who is Franklin County?’ Next year it will be, ‘Where is Franklin County?'”

Many of the taxpayers were in the seats at Samuel Hawkins Gymnasium as the Eagles were treated to a huge turnout and a pregame show that included players running through a smoke machine for introductions over the P.A. system. Woodbridge coach George Washington said Franklin County’s show of support rocked his team back on its heels. At least for a few minutes.

“They had the jitters,” Washington said. “They were just nervous. They had butterflies in their stomachs. They hadn’t been in this atmosphere. This is a pretty big crowd compared to what we get. The people don’t come to the girls games.”

Murphy sensed potential danger too.

“We weren’t very relaxed at all,” Murphy said. “We were a mess. We were all over the place.”

The two teams combined for 35 turnovers in the first half, but Woodbridge led from the outset. Murphy settled Woodbridge down in the second quarter, scoring all of her nine points and dishing out back-to-back assists to Diana Martinez and Ariene Jenkins for a 29-16 lead just before halftime.

Whitney Allen, a 5-foot-11 forward who has signed with George Washington University, owned the third quarter for Woodbridge. Allen, who finished with a game-high 17 points, scored the Vikings’ first 10 points of the quarter, then fed Jenkins as Woodbridge went up 41-24.

“That’s what she does,” Murphy said.

The rest of the game was a parade to the free throw line as Washington started saving his starters for tonight’s final.

“I was trying to rest people and make sure we had the game in hand too,” Washington said. “That’s a juggling act.”

Jarred by Woodbridge’s run-and-jump press, Franklin County never got its offense untracked. The Eagles, who use five freshmen in their rotation, made just 10 field goals, hit 21 of 39 free throws and committed 28 turnovers.

Freshman forward P.J. Wade led Franklin County with 12 points.

“We’re where we’re supposed to be right now,” Black said. “I don’t think we lost to anybody we should not have lost to and we didn’t beat anybody we shouldn’t have beat.

“But we’ve still got a little bit to do. We’ve got to work on a lot of fundamentals. Our shooting form is not good at all. That’s one reason we missed a lot of free throws.”

Robert Anderson covers high schools for the Roanoke Times.

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