By Cam Huffman
Winners of seven straight heading into Saturday’s girls basketball game with Class AAA No. 1 Greenbrier East, Washington outscored the Spartans 15-4 over the final six minutes of the game.
The bad news for the visitors from the Eastern Panhandle is that the late run had everything to do with what had happened the previous 26 minutes.
East (9-0) used an attacking defense and some hot shooting from the perimeter to open up a lead as large as 30 points and defeat the Patriots (8-5) 75-57 to stay undefeated.
The final Washington surge came with the Spartan starters sitting on the bench cheering on the reserves.
“For them to be (9-0), from my vantage point, is incredible, that’s all there is to it,” said East head coach Jim Justice, who’s a perfect 19-0 this season as the coach of both the boys and girls teams. “But they deserve it. They’ve worked unbelievably hard, and they’re a great, great bunch of kids.”
The Spartans, who have won every game this season by double digits, set the tone in the opening minutes Saturday, scoring the game’s first 13 points. Elizabeth Romeo knocked down a pair of 3-pointers to start the scoring, and then East found some easy buckets, forcing Washington turnovers with its full-court press.
Point guard Chloe Honaker knocked down a 3-ball with 6 minutes left on the first-quarter clock to complete the 13-0 run as the Patriots struggled to find an answer.
Washington, though, didn’t go away.
Settling down to break the Spartan press and passing the ball well to find quality shots, the visitors quickly cut into the lead, pulling within seven, 24-17, on an Amber Curry putback just before the end of the opening quarter.
“We jumped up 13-0, and at the end of the first quarter we were up seven,” said Justice. “Usually when that happens, you’re in a dog fight.”
Washington was unable to cut into the lead any further in the early minutes of the second quarter, though, and when Bianca André finally hit a 3-pointer for the first points of the second quarter, she sparked a 9-0 run that helped East take full control.
André — a first team all-state pick a year ago, who finished with 20 points, 17 rebounds and six assists — followed up the 3-ball with a steal and an easy layup.
Romeo, who had 15 points and five boards in the game, did her best André impersonation on the next inbounds pass, scoring off another steal, and André closed the run with a final steal and a bucket, making the score 33-17 with 3:29 left before halftime.
The Spartans took a 43-26 lead into the locker room, holding Washington to just nine points in the second quarter, and then scored nine of the first 10 points of the second half to really put the game on ice.
Ahead 64-37 after three quarters, East built a lead as large as 67-37 before turning to its bench to play out the final six minutes.
Chaunté McDowell matched André’s huge night with 20 points and four rebounds, and Honaker ended the game with 12 points and six assists.
Jackie Hess was Washington’s top scorer with 15 points and seven rebounds, and Kylie Nelson had 10 points and eight boards. Kenya Dozier had a game-high 16 rebounds to go along with five points and three assists, but the Patriots shot just 30 percent from the field and struggled from the foul line.
The Spartans will put their undefeated record on the line Friday and Saturday when they make a trip to the Eastern Panhandle to take on Martinsburg and Hedgesville on back-to-back days.
“These kids came in with almost a little chip on their shoulder,” said Justice, whose team won the Class AAA championship last season but began the 2012-13 campaign without two key players from that squad, Cheyenne Hooper and Anna Hammaker, who moved back to Tennessee in the offseason. “Everybody was saying, ‘You lost those kids, and you don’t have a chance.’ I can’t tell you how long this journey is going to last, but it doesn’t matter to me if it lasts another day. What they’ve accomplished to date is remarkable.
“The first day of practice, I said, ‘We may be lucky to win five games.’ We had to change everything. When you lose a 6-foot-6 post player and a D-I point guard, it makes it really tough. What we had to do is become very aggressive, very well conditioned and have all five of our kids getting the 50-50 balls and rebounding the ball. That’s what we’ve done.”
Washington will try to start a new run Tuesday when it takes on Millbrook (Va.).
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Kenya Dozier 2 1-8 5, Kylie Nelson 4 2-2 10, Morgan Adams 3 0-0 6, Jackie Hess 4 5-6 15, Alycia Lambert 3 3-4 9, Kirsten Doleman 1 2-4 4, Amber Curry 3 1-2 5, Christina Collins 0 0-0 0. Totals 20 14-26 57.
Greenbrier East (9-0)
Elizabeth Romeo 5 3-4 15, Bianca Andre 7 4-4 20, Maddee Carroll 1 0-2 2, Chloe Honaker 4 2-3 12, Chaunte McDowell 7 1-2 20, Kristen Talbott 0 0-0 0, Victoria Krystynak 0 0-0 0, Kat Walton 0 2-2 2, Lexi Tincher 1 1-3 3, Caitland Boggs 0 1-2 1, CeCe Grant 0 0-0 0, Kaitlyn Mize 0 0-0 0. Totals 25 14-22 75.
W 17 9 11 29 — 57
GE 24 19 21 11 — 75
3-pointers — W: 3 (Hess 2, Curry), GE: 11 (McDowell 5, Romeo 2, Andre 2, Honaker 2); Fouled out — W: None, GE: Mize.