Bulldogs fight it out against Indians
WOODBRIDGE — Hylton senior guard Jennifer Rhodan and her Bulldog teammates expected Gar-Field to put up a fight when the squads met in Wednesday’s Cardinal District semifinal. They just didn’t expect it to feel so much like a fight.
Hylton survived a fourth quarter in which three of its starters went to the bench with injuries and a fourth fouled out, outlasting the never-say-die Indians 47-34 to advance to Saturday’s District Championship game with Woodbridge.
“A couple of us got banged up,” said Bulldogs senior post player Starr Allen, who hit the floor hard in the final minute, but stayed in to gingerly shoot two free throws. “We’ve got a lot of ice bags back here [in the locker room].”
“One thing I forgot to tell them,” said Hylton coach Melvin Smith, “is Gar-Field is more experienced at this type of game.”
The fourth-seeded Indians may have been heavy underdogs to Smith’s top-seeded Bulldogs, whose 15-game winning streak was snapped in this past Friday’s district finale against Forest Park, but they weren’t intimidated.
Gar-Field’s Shannon Massie scored six of her 10 points in the final 2:28 of the third period, helping the Indians whittle an 11-point Hylton lead to four with a 9-2 run. But Hylton, which held Gar-Field without a point in the first 5:32 of the second half, held the Indians to two fourth quarter field goals as both teams played intensely physical in the final 16 minutes.
Monique Mason played sparingly all evening due to foul trouble, but her turnaround jumper in the paint and two free throws 30 seconds later pushed a 36-30 Hylton lead to 40-30.
“We had to keep our composure,” said Rhodan, who took a knee to the groin in the fourth quarter. “We couldn’t let them get back in the game.”
The lead growing to 10 was significant, said Gar-Field coach Larry Baker. The Indians, who had success breaking Hylton’s full-court press in the fourth quarter, missed a layup when the lead was six. They were also 9 of 20 from the free-throw line, including 6 of 12 in the final period.
“Maybe we get a few more layups and shoot a better percentage from the free-throw line, and it’s a different game,” Baker said.
Baker also said his team — missing post players Jessica Peters (injury) and Tina Roebuck (personal reasons) — didn’t aim to be physical with the Bulldogs. Baker said that is just the nature of playing hard in a district tournament.
“I don’t think we expected it to be this physical,” said Allen, “but I think we adjusted to it well. We maybe weren’t expecting them to be so physical, especially when we saw their post players were missing.”
Rhodan and Shareka Purnell each left the game in the fourth period after sustaining mild injuries. Allen, Rhodan and Purnell should each be ready for Saturday’s game.
Smith said Gar-Field was more aggressive going after the ball. Though his team is 20-2, he still thinks they can play better.
Baker, whose team finished 6-16 and out of the Northwest Region tournament for the first time since 1986-87, said this team made him as proud as any he’s coached.
“Wins and losses, I don’t measure it by that,” he said. “This team never stopped playing hard… this team did not underachieve.”