Vikings hold up their end


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WOODBRIDGE — By its Thursday afternoon shootaround, the Woodbridge girls basketball team had never been so excited to see its court.

Cooped up at home after snow canceled a week of both school and practice, the Vikings let loose a good bit of their pent-up energy in the first five minutes, surging to a 16-0 lead on the way to a 58-42 Senior Night win over Gar-Field.

The Woodbridge victory clinched a three-way tie atop the four-team Cardinal District after Hylton defeated Forest Park. The Vikings have to play Hylton tonight at Forest Park in the first of two playback games. Forest Park, which won a drawing for a bye, will travel on Saturday afternoon to face the winner of the Vikings-Bulldogs playback game.

Woodbridge showed few signs of the layoff at tipoff, as Whitney Allen and Diana Martinez each contributed four quick points. April Henderson scored eight points in a 50-second span, including two 3-pointers.

In between baskets, the Vikings had plenty of energy for a full-court press, forcing six Gar-Field turnovers before the Indians got off their second shot, a Nicole Atkinson basket with 2:44 left in the first period that made it 16-2.

“We did a little bit of everything,” said Woodbridge coach George Washington of his game strategy. “The girls were glad to get up here. They had cabin fever … They were hungry for it.”

“We were ready to play because we hadn’t played for so long,” said April Henderson, who like fellow seniors Elizabeth Murphy, Faith Blackshear, Martinez and Allen, were honored before the game.

In the second quarter, Elizabeth Murphy got the hot hand from long range, making two more threes as the Vikings went up 24-8.

In the half, Woodbridge shot 12 of 26 (46 percent) from the floor and were 4 of 9 from 3-point range, numbers that seem pretty good for a team which last played nine days ago.

“We always hope to shoot that well,” Henderson said. “We were just feeling it tonight.”

In fact, the only faults one could really find with Woodbridge’s play in the first half was that they were too anxious. They committed 10 fouls and turned the ball over nine times against the Indians’ zone defense.

Gar-Field, which took the Vikings to the wire before losing 34-32 on Jan. 17, had a tough time getting good shots. They made just 3 of 13 field goal attempts in the first half and 12 of 40 (30 percent) overall.

If Forest Park had beaten Hylton, they would have clinched the district title and automatic regional tournament berth. The Vikings knew they had a chance with a win, but couldn’t concern themselves with the Hylton-Forest Park contest.

“We didn’t talk about it at all,” said Murphy, whose season-high 11 points all came from beyond 18 feet. “All coach talked about was us today.”

The prospect of playing three games in three days — or five in six days including the district tournament — is now very possible for the Vikings, who like Hylton and Forest Park, finished with a 4-2 record in the Cardinal District and split two games with the other two tied teams.

But that doesn’t bother Washington or his players, who have already played five games in six days once this season, from Dec. 9-14.

The Vikings only returned six roster players from the group that went to last year’s state final four. But Henderson thinks the Vikings can make another run to Lynchburg.

“We’re feeling like we’re competitive with the whole state,” she said. “Our goal is to get back there and come back with a ring and a T-shirt.”

“I think the seniors told the other ones that this is when the season starts,” Washington said.

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