WOODBRIDGE — Woodbridge girls basketball coach George Washington said his team loves the zone press even though they haven’t practiced it very long.
They expressed that feeling very effectively during a 13-1 fourth-quarter run that rattled Maryland power Riverdale Baptist and all but put away the visitors in a 71-58 victory on Friday night. It was the first win for the Vikings in their last four games against Riverdale Baptist, which won by 26 and 29 points, respectively, in the 1999-2000 and 2000-2001 regular seasons.
Leading just 46-44 early in the fourth quarter, the Vikings slapped on the full-court press, which caused four turnovers and several hurried shots that ultimately doomed Riverdale to an 0-1 start.
“For some reason, the girls love our zone press,” Washington said. “So when we throw it on, they want to do it. We really haven’t practiced it that much, we went over it a couple of times and Whitney [Allen] wasn’t even here last year. She was instrumental in the press too.”
Jen Woodie started the run innocently enough by hitting one of two free throws. Kathy Clark, who scored 13 points and grabbed seven boards, followed with two more free throws to give Woodbridge a 49-44 edge. A jumper by Kristen Portell and a steal and a layup by Liana Wooten gave the Vikings a 53-44 lead.
After a free throw by Riverdale’s Jessica Perkins, Wooten hit one-of-two free throws, Portell nailed a three-pointer and Clark assisted on a layup by Wooten after making a steal to give the Vikings an insurmountable 14-point edge. Riverdale never got closer than 11 points the rest of the way.
“I think they were kind of surprised, because I don’t think they thought that we were as quick as we were,” Clark said.
Wooten scored 23 points, grabbed five rebounds and had five steals to help Woodbridge run their record to 3-0. However, it was the play of Allen that had Washington really excited.
“She really changed the complexion of the game. There are not many people that will battle with Kathy [Clark] and Whitney is one of those that does,” Washington said.
Offensively, the Vikings connected on seven three-pointers, including four in the first half to help soften up the Riverdale 2-3 zone defense. Wooten had 11 points in the first half, nine of them coming on threes.
“They were getting in the gaps and we were getting caught out of position,” first-year Riverdale coach Diane Richardson said.
After missing her first seven shots, Clark began to get better looks down low as Woodbridge’s outside shooting brought the Riverdale halfcourt defense out higher. Clark scored all nine of her first-half points in the second quarter.
“They kept bringing their big girl out up high and we’d get out of position and then they could get the ball underneath,” Richardson said.
Portell had all 14 of her points in the fourth quarter, while Woodie had seven points and April Henderson added six for the Vikings. Ashley Whisonant, the only starter off last year’s Riverdale team that went 25-3, hit 12-of-16 free throws and scored a team-high 19 points. Mia Glover added 15 for the visitors.
Washington said the Vikings have room for improvement but feels like his team is ahead of schedule.
“I don’t think they’re in midseason form yet because there was still a lot of things that were wrong,” Washington said. “But I think that we are ahead of where we’ve been in a long time starting off the season.”