RICHMOND—Several things went well for Greensville County in Saturday’s 2A State Basketball Championship game at the Siegel Center, but disastrous shooting by the Lady Eagles, especially in the second quarter, was too much to overcome as Central High pulled away to win its third-consecutive 2A state title, 57-34.
Greensville (25-6) out rebounded Central (26-4) 45-38 and held the Lady Warriors Central to 26 percent shooting from the field. The biggest difference came from behind the arc. The Lady Eagles were 1-20 from 3-point land. The Warriors were 8-23. Though Central’s defense created some problems for the green and gold, Greensville coach Sharon Randolph said it was mostly self-inflicted.
“Hats off to Central,” Randolph said. “They played great defense, but we’ve seen defense equal to that and more. I just felt like when our shots didn’t fall it kind of put us behind the 8-ball so to speak and our confidence level went down. We were 1-20 from the 3-point line and we are a 3-point shooting team, so if our 3-point shooting is not there we are not going to win a whole lot of games.”
Greensville actually shot well in the first quarter knocking down half of its 12 attempts from the field. Jacqueline Hill put the Lady Eagles in front 2-0 early with an offensive rebound and finish in the paint. Central only hit 29 percent of its first quarter attempts from the field, but three of those shots were from behind the arc and the Lady Warriors went 5-6 from the charity stripe.
Hannah Carter put Central in front 3-2 hitting a pair of free throws with 6:32 left the first quarter. The Lady Eagles received baskets from Kailyn Pleasants and Sanijah Robinson, followed by a Hill free throw to knot the score at 7-7 with 3:24 left the first quarter. Right when Greensville appeared to be where it wanted to be, Central’s Olivia Mullins put her squad in front by 9 points by burying three shots from behind the arc within a span of 86 seconds, the final dagger with 1:45 left in the first frame.
The Lady Eagles recovered, outscoring the Warriors 6-2 to close the stanza. Sanijah Robinson, Clynesha Robinson and Lenah Clements each scored a bucket in the run. Though trailing 18-13, the Greensville offense appeared to be heating up heading into the second quarter, but a cold front mysteriously moved in and smothered the Lady Eagle shooters.
Clements scored a deuce with 4:52 left in the second quarter — it would be the only 2 points the Lady Eagles could muster before halftime. Central scored a dozen in the frame, half of those coming from a pair of Brook Porter 3-pointers as the Lady Warriors went into the halftime locker room with a comfortable 30-15. advantage.
“They played great defense, but we could’ve done better than that,” Hill said, “I’ve seen defenses like that. I’m not sure what happened. I think it was more us than their defense.”
Greensville was 1-15 from the field in the second quarter connecting on 6.7 percent of its shots. The shooting percentage would be a little better in the third quarter for the green and gold, but the shots were not falling as much as needed to get back into the game.
Carter knocked down a pair of free throws for Central to open the third-quarter scoring, but the Lady Eagles bounced back with a Lady Warrior foul on a Pleasants’ basket. She sank the free throw and Sanijah Robinson connected for a deuce on a drive to trim the deficit to 12, 32-20,with 5:35 left the third quarter. Greensville did not hit from the field again until Clements buried a 3-pointer with 1:33 remaining in the frame, by that time the Warriors’ lead had ballooned to 41-21. Central’s Hannah Large tickled the twine from behind the arc with five seconds left the frame to push the lead back to 20 points, 44-24.
Greensville cut the deficit to less than 20 points twice in the fourth quarter — the final time on a Hill basket with 2:34 left on the clock to cut the Warriors advantage to 52-34. Hannah McAmus followed with a Central 3-pointer and Jillian Sturgill added the final bucket of the game to account for the 23-point margin.
Mullins led all scorers with 13 points. Her teammate Dee Cvetnich was the only other player to net double figures with 10 points. Clements, Hill and Sanijah Robinson scored 9 points, each, to pace the Greensville offense. Jazlyn Jefferson snagged 10 rebounds. Region A Player of the Year Clements was hoping for a different outcome in her final game in a Greensville uniform, but she enjoyed her four years playing basketball for the Eagles, especially this year’s run to the state final.
“For me it was a great experience overall,” she said. “I do hate that we fell short, but I think just getting here showed what we could do and I’m just thankful we got here. I think I could have played better, but I’m not going to dwell what I can’t change.”
Randolph was the Tri-Rivers District and 2A Region A Coach of the Year and enjoyed an exciting road to the finals she traveled with her team.
“I’m proud of the young ladies I have,” she said. “We’ve had a magical season. They worked hard to get here and I told them they belong here. Hats off to Central. They are an exceptional team. I told my girls to keep there heads up. You never know, we might be back here next year, but I’m losing two great, important parts of Greensville County basketball history in Lenah Clements and Jazlyn Jefferson. I thank them for their four years here.”
The two seniors will be difficult to replace, but the returning players are all currently freshman and sophomores and have two and three years of eligibility remaining. For Hill, a second-team All-Region A player as a sophomore, the work required to get better is already on her mind.
“I’m just going to work on my craft,” she said. “I know there are a couple things I could have done better. I’m just going to be working over the summer to get better, but this is the best experience of my life, so I am happy to be here.”
Hill’s words pretty much summarized the feeling her teammates shared. It was a disappointing result Saturday, but the ride to the Siegel Center in Richmond was nothing short of magical.