ERHS Rolls, 69-39
Posted: February 9, 2013
ERHS’s Madison Comer drives to the basket as Page’s Katelyn Gordon defends in the third quarter. (Photo by Michael Reilly / DN-R)
“She went to camp with us last summer, and I said, ‘Look, I need you to play on the varsity,’” said ERHS girls’ coach Paul Comer, who then imitated Rouse’s scared, perplexed look after hearing those words. “She said, ‘Oh, I don’t think I can do it.’”
On Friday, Rouse – along with the rest of the Eagles’ bench – was ready for a lot more than just being on the roster.
Rouse was one of 11 East Rock players who scored in the top-seeded Eagles’ 69-39 victory over No. 8-seed Page County in the opening round of the Shenandoah District tournament, a sign of just how much the young Eagle reserves have developed this season.
“At the beginning of the year, it took us almost a whole game to finally get into the game and get warmed up and actually feel comfortable,” said Rouse, who had four points and six rebounds Friday. “I feel like since maybe the middle of the season, we’ve gotten more comfortable as soon as we got on the court.”
The Eagles (23-0) will play No. 4 Stuarts Draft, which beat No. 5 Riverheads 37-25 Friday, in the semifinals at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at Eastern Mennonite University. The other semifinal between Luray and Stonewall Jackson will follow.
It’s been hard to specify any weakness on the Eagles the last two years, given that they have now won 51 games in a row. But the one vulnerability consistently pointed out by opposing coaches early in the season was the bench. ERHS, after all, lost several major contributors from last year’s Division 1 state championship team.
Early in the year, Comer, said, his reserves “couldn’t even get the ball across half-court” against the starters in practice. That wasn’t the case in Friday’s playoff game.
The bench combined for 14 points, including four each from freshmen Rouse, a guard, and forward Hayley McPike. It doesn’t sound like much, but when the starters are so good, the Eagles don’t necessarily need much behind them.
The difference in the bench, it appears, is confidence.
“As the season has progressed, you can tell that our bench is getting more confident with coming in the game and being just straight ready to go,” senior guard Jessica Lam said.
Of course, the competition will ramp up the rest of the postseason from Page, which lost its second game to East Rock by 30-plus points in the last week.
The Eagles’ starters, all returners from last year, did most of the damage Friday. Lam had 15 points and sophomore guard Madison Comer had 14 for the Eagles, who made four 3-pointers in a row to take a 15-4 lead in the first quarter. The lead grew to 31-5 by the second and was never threatened.
But the Panthers (8-14) did play East Rock much closer Jan. 8, when the Eagles won 66-53 at Page. Since then, PCHS coach Ralph Viafora, too, has noticed an improvement in the Eagles’ reserves.
“A lot of teams, when [the Eagles] start putting a couple of those younger kids in, they just really put that [pressure] on ’em,” Viafora said. “We tried to do it tonight, too, and they seemed to handle it a lot better. So I feel like his [Comer’s] bench is going to help him down the road, even if it’s just for a minute here or there.”
Comer has said his starters are in good enough shape to play nearly the entire game if necessary. But extenuating circumstances arise – like when, early this season, the Eagles had two starters out with injuries. Or, starters could get in foul trouble.
As East Rock potentially gets deep into another state playoff run, Comer knows he may have to rely on a couple of youngsters to keep them in a close game. If that happens, he likes his chances.
“I trust ’em,” Comer said. “Whenever we need a play to be made, they can make it.”
And, if Rouse is called upon for important minutes, she said, she’ll happily oblige.
“I think that I’ll react to that a little better than I would have the beginning of the season,” she said.
Viafora 2 0-0 6, Gum 0 0-2 0, Gray 1 1-4 3, Andrews 4 2-6 11, Smith 2 0-0 4, Comer 1 0-0 2, Breeden 1 3-4 3, Gordon 2 4-4 6. Totals 13 10-20 39.
Dofflemyer 3 2-3 9, Comer 5 2-4 14, Grubbs 1 0-0 2, Rouse 2 0-2 4, Smith 0 2-2 2, Cameron 3 1-2 8, McPike 1 2-2 4, Wilkins 1 0-0 2, Lam 3 8-10 15, Nicholson 3 1-2 7, Kisling 1 0-0 2. Totals 23 18-27 69.
Page Co. 5 8 16 7 - 39
East Rock 25 12 19 13 - 69
3-Point Goals—Page 3 (Viafora 2, Andrews 1), East Rockingham 5 (Dofflemyer 1, Comer 2, Comer 1, Lam 1). Fouled Out—None. Rebounds—Page 34 (Andrews 7), East Rockingham 39 (Cameron 8). Total Fouls—Page 18, East Rockingham 16.