Eagles Win, 67-51
ELKTON – Down by 25 points with about 5½ minutes to go in the third quarter, it was evident that not much was going Bluestone High School’s way.
Thirty turnovers in the first half – and more than 40 for the game – certainly didn’t help the Barons. But determined sophomore Alexis Walton willed Bluestone back into the game and forced East Rockingham to re-apply its harassing full-court press.
After a fourth-quarter surge, the Eagles advanced comfortably to the next round.
Junior guard Madison Comer scored half of her 20 points on fast-break field goals, freshman center Alexis Dean added 16 points and East Rock defeated Bluestone 67-51 in the 2A East regional girls’ basketball quarterfinals Thursday.
The Eagles (19-6) will play Luray – the Conference 35 champion – for the third time this season at noon Saturday at Hanover High School, with the winner earning a 2A state final four berth.
Thursday’s game appeared to be on the verge of a rout early on as East Rock outscored the Barons 15-3 in the first quarter while forcing 12 turnovers. After a 9-0 run in the second quarter, including a pair of Madison Shifflett baskets, ERHS led 29-5.
“We woke up,” said Bluestone coach Michael Camden, who starts four sophomores. “We didn’t show up the first half. During the third quarter, we started playing Bluestone basketball. If we would’ve put those four quarters together, I believe it would have been a different turnout.
“… With young players, it’s really easy to throw in the towel and give up, but they didn’t.”
Trailing 40-15 in the third, the Barons mounted a spirited comeback with an 18-2 run fueled by Walton, a second-year basketball player plucked out of the hallways as a freshman. She scored 12 of her career-high 31 points in that span and managed 23 in the second half alone.
Suddenly, ERHS’s comfortable lead was a not-so-comfortable 42-33.
“We’ve got to sustain pressure a little bit longer,” ERHS coach Paul Comer said. “We kind of got the big lead on them in the first half and then kind of laid back a little bit and let them get comfortable. … The next thing you know, it’s a nine-point game.”
But Dean scored on a buzzer layup to close the third quarter. Then, after the Barons (16-7) got within 47-34 with a putback from 6-foot-2 sophomore center Laurine Jordan, the Eagles outscored Bluestone 20-12 the rest of the way, including eight consecutive team points from Comer.
Walton’s fourth 3-pointer of the game – and Bluestone’s final shot – allowed the sophomore to surpass her previous best scoring total of 29.
“I wasn’t worried about my record,” said Walton, who also had a game-high 13 rebounds. “I was just keeping the team’s head up and just pushing it. Never give up.”
The Eagles struggled on the boards and had 24 turnovers of their own, but never seemed to lose control of the game. Handfuls of steals masked any shortcomings East Rock may have had, and Coach Comer was able to give his reserves extra playing time in each quarter.
Sophomore Bryce Dofflemyer led six scorers off the bench with eight points, including two 3-pointers. The other five Eagles combined for 13 points, all coming at the foul line, where the team finished 20-for-32.
East Rock, a two-time defending state champion, split with Luray during the regular season. Apparently, there may still be some bad blood between the two Shenandoah District rivals.
“It’s been a battle coming out of that game every time,” said Madison Comer, who finished with eight steals and six assists. “… I think since the first time they beat us – they’ve never beat us before, so they acted a little crazy when they beat us. We remembered that and came back out here and beat them. Hopefully Saturday we can do the same thing and make it to the final four.”
Diamond 0 1-2 1, Jordan 5 1-2 11, Walton 11 5-9 31, Thornton 0 5-6 5, Pulliam 0 2-2 2, Watson 0 1-2 1. Totals: 16 15-23 51.
Comer 7 5-10 20, Shifflett 3 0-0 6, Dean 7 2-2 16, Bailey 1 0-0 2, Kisling 1 0-0 2, Dofflemyer 3 0-0 8, Smith 0 4-6 4, McPike 0 3-4 3, Williams 0 1-2 1, Hearn 0 2-2 2, Grubbs 0 0-2 0, Rouse 0 3-4 3. Totals: 22 20-32 67.
Bluestone 3 9 21 18 – 51
East Rock 15 18 11 23 – 67
3-Pointers—Bluestone 4 (Walton 4); East Rock 3 (Dofflemyer 2, Comer). Fouls—Bluestone 23; East Rock 16. Fouled Out—Bluestone (Pulliam). Rebounds—Bluestone 36 (Walton 13); East Rock 25 (Shifflett 5).