AAA girls' basketball semifinal

Virginia girls' basketball: Stonewall Jackson defeats West Springfield in AAA state semifinal

Assistant coach Derek Caracciolo and team members celebrate Stonewall's first trip to the state final.
Assistant coach Derek Caracciolo and team members celebrate Stonewall's first trip to the state final. (Tracy A. Woodward)
  Enlarge Photo    
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, March 10, 2011

RICHMOND - No. 15 Stonewall Jackson was without one of its star players, senior forward Joy Caracciolo, for much of the first half of its Virginia AAA state semifinal at VCU's Siegel Center on Wednesday afternoon.

No. 4 West Springfield was without one of its star players, junior forward Logan Battle, for most of the second half.

Stonewall coped with its early loss better than West Springfield coped with its late loss to pull out a 47-42 victory and reach the state championship game for the first time.

The Boston College-bound Caracciolo, averaging 21.5 points, picked up her third foul with 6 minutes 58 seconds left in the second quarter and her team down by five. She left the game and did not return until the second half. Even with her out, Stonewall trailed only 21-19 entering the third period.

Battle, a Georgetown recruit, injured her left ankle with 6:04 to play in the third quarter and returned about four minutes later.

With 6:54 left in the game, after Battle committed two turnovers in less than a minute, she hurt her right ankle and exited the game for good. The Spartans were up 39-37 at the time.

"If we don't lose Logan, we don't lose that game," said West Springfield Coach Bill Gibson, who was trying to bring home a state title to the Northern Region for the first time since his team won in 1999. "I bet my house on we don't lose that game with Logan in the game. But that's part of the game.

"When you take a 5-10 kid who's got a reach of Michael Jordan, an extension, it makes it tough passing and doing other things for the other team, and we lost all that along with the rebounding and the scoring."

After Battle went out, the Spartans committed four of their 21 turnovers in 32 seconds. Caracciolo tied the score with a putback with 6:28 to play and 26 seconds later, junior Ryan Jordan scored off of a steal for a lead that Stonewall (20-7) never gave up.

Battle's absence, "definitely affected us on rebounding and handling the ball," Spartans junior guard April Robinson said.

West Springfield (28-2), whose only other loss this season was to Stonewall, went scoreless the final 4:37 and did not force the Raiders into the one-and-one until 11 seconds remained. Sophomore Amanda Hinton sank both shots to extend the lead.

Stonewall senior guard Necole Sterling led the Raiders with 18 points, including six during Caracciolo's stint on the bench in the second quarter, and eight rebounds. Caracciolo scored all 10 of her points in the second half.

"I know we have a lot of young players," Sterling said. "They're learning how to seize the moment, but I just figured it was my time to step up."

"We were able to get a small lead and keep a small lead because we executed the game plan at the end," said Raiders Coach Nsonji White, citing attacking the rim and pressuring the Spartans in the final minutes.

West Springfield took four busloads of fans to the game, mostly students but also a few retirees with ties to the school.

Stonewall had no such contingent but hopes to bring more fans for the state championship at 7 p.m. Friday at Siegel Center. The Raiders will face Princess Anne, which defeated Forest Park in the semifinal.

Stonewall JacksonWest Springfield

© 2011 The Washington Post Company