Eagles Survive Altavista For 35-31 Win, State Title
RICHMOND — The performance wasn’t one the East Rockingham High School girls’ basketball team would, normally, want to remember — except that it won them a state championship.
East Rock made just one field goal in the fourth quarter and lost a 10-point lead but, as its done all season, locked down on defense, and Sarah Cameron made two free throws with two seconds to go, as the Eagles edged Altavista 35-31 for their second straight Division 1 title Friday afternoon at the Siegel Center.
“We’re very fortunate to win this game today,” ERHS coach Paul Comer said. “It just goes to show what defense will do, and the old adage of offense wins games, but defense wins championships — and without our defensive effort, we’re not sitting in this room with smiles on our faces and nets around our necks.”
East Rockingham, in just its third year of existence, now has made three state final four appearances (the Eagles lost in the semifinals in 2010) and is 2-for-2 in state-title games. ERHS is the 14th girls’ team since 1975 to win at least two consecutive state championships.
East Rock loses three seniors — Cameron, Jessica Lam and Meghan Nicholson (all starters) — off this year’s team.
“I can’t even describe it,” said Nicholson, a 5-foot-10 center. “I can hardly hold it together sitting here. Last night, I had a rough night, realizing that today is our last day, and to go out with [a title], it’s the best way to go out.”
The Eagles (29-1) led 30-20 at the end of the third quarter but got out-scored 11-5 in the fourth, making just one field goal — a layup by Jessica Lam at the 4:15 mark — and hit just 3-of-8 free throws, including going 0-for-3 on the front end of one-and-ones.
Altavista (23-5) — which ERHS dispatched 56-37 in the Region B title game — went on a 11-2 run to cut the Eagles’ lead to 32-31 with 3:21 to go. But the Colonels’ offense died after that. They turned it over on their next four possessions without getting off a shot, while Cameron made one of two free throws with 2:11 left to make it 33-31.
East Rock kept AHS in it, though, by missing free throws. The Colonels’ last chance came on an inbounds play under the hoop with 6.2 seconds left, but a short jumper from Sydney Morris — a 5-11 junior forward who has verbally committed to play volleyball at Division I James Madison — bounced off the side of the backboard.
The Colonels also had three players foul out after picking up seven fouls in the first quarter.
“We got a couple of defensive stops that we needed but couldn’t seem to get back and get set and get the type of shot we wanted,” said Altavista coach Debra Spencer, who played basketball at Bridgewater College. “By the time we got to the very end, all my shooters … they’re by me [on the bench].”
ERHS got Morris’ rebound, and Cameron, fouled with two seconds to play, hit both free throws to ice the game and the Eagles’ second straight state title.
“It was stressful, but I knew I had two shots, so hopefully one was good enough, but I wanted to hit two shots just to make sure,” said Cameron, who missed last year’s title game because of a tearing ligaments in her knee. “... It felt good to finally end on a good note.”
Cameron led East Rockingham with a game-high 13 points and 10 rebounds. The senior forward also had four steals, two assists and made five of six from the foul line.
No other ERHS player finished in double figures in the Eagles’ second consecutive rough game offensively. After struggling to shoot in its semifinal win over Castlewood on Thursday, East Rock shot 25.2 percent (12-of-47) Friday and broke double-digits in a quarter only once (a 12-point third).
Morris led Altavista with nine points and 17 rebounds, but the Colonels had 27 turnovers. ERHS scored 20 points of them, and the four straight down the stretch killed AHS, which was just a basket away from taking the lead for the final 3:20 of the game.
Still, the Eagles hung on, and they’ll certainly remember that.
“It’s very satisfying to show them a lesson in life that sometimes things aren’t going to go your way,” Comer said. “We struggled through a lot of things today, but at the end of the day, it was just a matter of us coming out there and buckling down and trying to persevere through it.”
Dews 4-17 1-1 9, Morris 4-6 1-2 9, Hedgpeth 0-1 0-0 0, Lee 3-9 0-0 7, Donigan 0- 2-2 2, Cox 0-0 0-0 0, Robinson 2-7 0-0 4, Wilson 0-0 0-0 0, Craft 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 13-43 4-5 31.
Dofflemyer 1-4 0-0 3, Comer 2-10 0-3 4, Cameron 3-11 5-6 13, Lam 2-15 3-6 7, Nicholson 4-7 0-0 8, Kisling 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 12-47 8-15 35.
Altavista 2 11 7 11 — 31
East Rockingham 9 12 9 5 — 35
3-Point Goals—Altavista 1-12 (Dews 0-8, Lee 1-4), East Rockingham 3-19 (Dofflemyer 1-4, Comer 0-4, Cameron 2-7, Lam 0-4). Fouled Out—Altavista (Dews, Lee, Donigan). Rebounds—Altavista 42 (Morris 17), East Rockingham 29 (Cameron 10). Assists—Altavista 4 (Dews 2), East Rockingham 8 (Comer 5). Total Fouls—Altavista 20, East Rockingham 8.