Girls’ basketball: Loudoun County evens season series with Woodgrove

February 6

Stepping up to the free-throw line, Loudoun County guard Gabrielle Gillis felt the nerves creep in.

With her Raiders up one with 32 seconds to go in the fourth quarter, she knew her team was counting on her. In a one-and-one situation, Gillis put up a soft free throw that swished through the net. The second then fell through as well.

She’d make two more trips to the free-throw line, sinking six free throws in a row to help give the Raiders a 36-29 win over rival Woodgrove at home.

“It was kind of like a blank moment,” said Gillis, who finished the rugged defensive contest with eight points. “I was sitting there trying to breathe in, breathe out and focus on my form and help our team get the win.”

Citing shooting as a weakness in her game, Gillis said converting in the clutch Thursday will be a confidence boost. She added the Raiders (15-4, 6-1 Conf. 21) often simulate pressure situations during practice, which helped prepare her.

Each team checked in well below its usual scoring output, with Loudoun County entering Thursday’s game averaging 53.3 points and Woodgrove averaging 58.4.

This game was similar in style to the previous matchup between the two teams on Jan. 4, when Woodgrove (17-2, 6-1) won in overtime, 41-34.

“We knew this game was going to be close. It’s been close for three years,” Woodgrove Coach Kevin Copley said. “Unfortunately, we didn’t come out on top this time. Both teams played extremely hard.”

Woodgrove’s defense was able to limit Loudoun County’s top two scorers, Maggie Phillips and Alyssa Paige, to a combined two points. But sophomore Elisabeth Gianelos, who entered the game averaging 4.1 points per game, filled the scoring void, posting a season-high 16 points and reaching double figures for the first time this year.

She scored nine of Loudoun County’s first 11 points and the go-ahead bucket that put Loudoun County up, 30-29, at the 1:35 mark of the fourth.

“Sometimes you’re on, sometimes you’re off,” Gianelos said. “My assistant coach comes up to me, maybe once a season, and will say, ‘We need a play.’ I take that very seriously.”

The loss snapped a five-game winning streak for the Wolverines.

The Raiders ended a three-game skid against the Wolverines en route to their eighth consecutive win.

“It’s a rewarding feeling. We put a lot of work in,” Gillis said. “[Woodgrove] is a great team, we love playing them. You never know who’s going to win.”

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