Williamsburg Christian Academy’s girls basketball team had Wednesday, Feb. 27 circled on its schedule all season long. Last night, they played like it.
After cruising to a Virginia Independent Schools Division III state championship a year ago and making the jump to Division II over the summer, the Eagles have been eager to return to the state tournament and prove they are a force, regardless of classification.
That quest began in ideal fashion Tuesday, as No. 2 WCA ran away from No. 7 Fredericksburg Christian 73-32.
“It’s like we’ve been saying all season, we’re just trying to prove ourselves,” said WCA junior Keyana Brown, who scored 14 of her game-high 19 points in the opening period as WCA seized control early and never looked back. “We feed off high energy, so we just tried to come out and jump on them right away.”
The victory sets up a semifinal showdown Friday at 4:30 p.m. at Wakefield School (The Plains) between No. 2 seeded WCA and No. 3 Hampton Roads Academy. HRA knocked off No. 6 Highland (Warrenton) 69-48 in another Wednesday quarterfinal.
Behind Brown’s early dominance on both ends of the court, WCA jumped out to a 14-0 lead in the first three minutes of regulation. Brown scored 10 of the first 14 points for WCA and was a formidable defensive threat as well with three steals during the run.
After Brittany Burton, who was the only Fredericksburg Christian player to score in double figures with 15 points, sparked a 6-2 run to help the visitors climb back in it, 16-6, WCA coach John Perkins immediately called a timeout to refocus his team and remind them not to get complacent.
WCA answered with an 8-0 run to close the quarter, capped off by Tonika Pierce’s deep 3-pointer from the wing, as the host Eagles ended the first period in control 24-6.
“We started not valuing the ball and rushing shots, and I got a little upset with them because for weeks we had been practicing keeping our poise – not having possessions where it’s one pass and shot and taking ill-advised 3’s – even when we get ahead,” Perkins said. “Then they settled down, started playing our brand of basketball and closed the quarter strong.”
WCA picked up right where it left off in the second as Kiana Batagelj came off the bench and opened the period with four straight points – a baseline jumper followed by a swift turnaround in the paint.
A common trend during the first half was Fredericksburg Christian’s inability to solve WCA’s full-court press as the visitors turned it over 11 times in the second period alone.
With a little over two minutes left in the first half, a steal and a layup by Brown were followed by another Brown steal, this time resulting in a 3-pointer by Pierce, stretched WCA’s lead to 34-12.
After Burton and Jalynn Ponzo (12 points) exchanged inside buckets, Lynn Dunn buried a jumper from the elbow as time expired to put WCA ahead comfortably 41-14 at the half.
WCA got excellent play from its bench all game long, but especially in the second half as Perkins was able to rest most of his starters for the remaining two quarters.
Batagelj provided an early spark with six first-half points off the bench while Dunn scored eight of her 10 points during the second half on 2-3 shooting from long range.
“I was very happy with the ladies who came off the bench tonight,” Perkins said. “They provided a spark for everyone and did a great job.”
Williamsburg Christian Academy 73 Fredericksburg Christian 32
WCA- 24 17 11 21 – 73
FC- 6 8 11 7 – 32
WCA (30-7)- Brown 19, Ponzo 12, Dunn 10, Seaman 8, Pierce 6, Strong 6, Batagelj 6, Cunningham 4, Robinson 2. Totals 27 11-15; 73.
FCS- Burton 15, Lavender 8, Clarkson 5, Brannen 4. Totals 13 5-7; 32.
No. 3 Hampton Roads Academy 69 No. 6 Highland 48
Rachel Lia’s 20 points and Braysia Hicks’ 18 were enough to power Hampton Roads Academy past Highland (Warrenton) 69-48 in another Division II quarterfinal Wednesday night.
The Navigators jumped out to a 38-18 lead at the half and held on to earn a 4:30 p.m. tip off against No. 2 WCA in Friday’s semifinals.
Brianne Spence contributed 11 rebounds and 3 blocks in the winning effort for HRA while Kellyn DeChirico’s added 6 points and 8 rebounds.
Hampton Roads Academy 69 Highland 48
HRA- 18 20 20 11 – 69
Highland- 6 12 12 19 – 48
HRA- Lia 20, Hicks 18, Velez 12, Ross 8, DeChirico 6, Lawson 3, Spence 2. Totals 21 3-4; 69.
Highland- Ross 22, Frye 7, Micciche 6, J. Shaw 5, Mayer 4, M. Shaw 2, Granato 2. Totals 21 3-7; 49.