One week into the season, Loudoun Valley High School sophomore Kristen Carlson sprained her ankle. She ended up missing the next five games. Tuesday night, the 6-foot center made up for lost time, scoring 11 of her 17 points in the first half and leading the Vikings to a 65-42 win over the Eagles before a rowdy crowd in Purcellville.
Loudoun Valley improved to 14-3 overall, 10-2 in the Northwestern District. Liberty fell to 14-3, 10-2.
"Every day she comes back, she gets a little better," said Loudoun Valley Coach Carmel Keilty. "This was her best game of the year. . . . She made the big plays when we needed it, and I thought that was a big key in the first half."
Led by junior forward Valerie Murphy, who scored nine of her game-high 20 points in the first quarter, Loudoun Valley jumped out to a 15-7 lead after one quarter and a 29-11 lead with 2:32 left in the first half.
Liberty cut the lead to 14 as Brittany Fones and Danielle Tapscott (16 points, six steals) stole the ball and hit layups, but Carlson (10 rebounds, six blocked shots, three assists) had an offensive rebound and putback, and Holly Everhart hit a short jumper to give the Vikings a 33-16 halftime lead.
"That was the best first half we've played all year," said Keilty, whose team outrebounded Liberty, 20-10, in the first half, and 37-19 overall. "We were patient with the ball, we handled their press and we shot the ball well."
Liberty made things interesting in the third quarter, scoring nine of the first 11 points and cutting the lead to 35-25. Tapscott did much of the damage, getting a steal and two jumpers. Krystal Hermes (five points, three rebounds) and Randi Jones (six points, five steals) also added baskets.
But just as the momentum seemed to be turning, Loudoun Valley went on a 9-4 run and led 44-29 with 1:39 left in the quarter. Murphy and Carlson combined for six of the nine points and senior guard Michelle McLaughlin (eight points, six rebounds) hit a three-pointer. Liberty closed out the quarter with a 6-0 run, cutting the lead to 44-35.
"The tempo we played in the third quarter would have been nice to have the whole game," said Liberty Coach Ellen Chapman, whose team had six steals in the third quarter, 19 overall. "I thought the third quarter was a really good quarter for us. I was a little disappointed with the other three [quarters] . . . I think we can be more competitive with them than we were tonight."
Liberty trailed by nine points early in the fourth quarter, but Everhart (16 points, eight rebounds, three steals) scored nine of the next 11 points to give Loudoun Valley a 57-39 lead with 2:14 left to play. Liberty cut the lead to 17 on a free throw by Regina Ford (six points, six rebounds), but the Vikings hit eight of 12 free throws down the stretch to put the game out of reach.
"This was probably our best game of the year," said Murphy, who had eight rebounds, three blocked shots, two assists and one steal. "We took care of the basketball, we took our time passing and looked for the open man . . . Our goal was to stop penetration and keep them off the boards. I think we did a good job."
Loudoun Valley--Everhart 7 2-4 16, Carlson 5 6-6 17, Murphy 9 2-4 20, Livesay 0 1-2 1, McLaughlin 2 3-4 8, Giannini 1 0-0 2, Scandiffio 0 1-2 1. Totals: 24 15-22 65.
Liberty--Jones 3 0-0 6, Tapscott 8 0-0 16, Ford 2 2-4 6, Gray 2 2-4 6, Hermes 1 3-4 5, Fones 1 0-0 2, Olinger 0 1-2. Totals: 17 8-14 42.
Halftime: Loudoun Valley, 33-16.
Three-point goals: Loudoun Valley 2 (Carlson 1, McLaughlin 1); Liberty 0.
CAPTION: Liberty's Jennifer Hudson tries to knock ball from hands of Kristen Carlson, who is coming back from ankle injury.