The Loudoun County High School girls basketball team has only one player taller than 5 feet 9. But as junior guard Tara Kidwell points out before every game, "It's not the size of the dog in the fight, it's size of the fight in the dog."
The Raiders used that philosophy--and a game-high 24 points from senior guard Marie Bolton--Tuesday night to defeat a bigger Stuarts Draft team, 67-61, in a Group AA Region II quarterfinal in Leesburg.
"We made some good defensive plays late in the game, and that was the key," said Loudoun County Coach Bob Pingley, whose team had 13 steals. "I thought we struggled a bit on offense, but our defense played very well."
The Raiders, who improved to 23-1, play Fluvanna at 7 tonight in a semifinal game at the James Madison University Convocation Center. Stuarts Draft finished the season 19-5.
Up 65-59 with 38.7 seconds left Tuesday, the Raiders had a chance to put the game away at the free throw line, but went 2 for 6 in the closing seconds. It did not matter, though, as Stuarts Draft turned the ball over twice.
"We're not a big team, so we have to use our speed and quickness," Kidwell said. ". . . [The Cougars were] a lot bigger than us, but we did a good job of stopping them in the second half. We just never gave up. That's what makes us a good team."
Led by sophomore forward Katie Baldwin (15 points, five rebounds), Loudoun County scored the first five points of the game and was up 11-7 midway through the first quarter. The Cougars cut it to 17-15, but the Raiders went on a 14-4 run in the second quarter; Bolton did much of the damage, hitting three layups and a three-pointer. Kidwell (eight points, five steals) added a three-pointer, and Baldwin chipped in with a short jumper.
Stuarts Draft scored the next five points, but Kidwell hit two jumpers, and Baldwin added two layups to give Loudoun County a 39-29 halftime lead.
After turning the ball over 18 times in the first half, Stuarts Draft came to life in the second. Sophomore guard Leah Campbell (15 points) and junior forward Megan Campbell (18 points) were the catalysts behind an 11-4 run that brought the score to 43-40 with 4 minutes 47 seconds left in the third quarter.
But just as the momentum seemed to be shifting, the Raiders went on a 9-0 run to take a 52-40 lead. Freshman forward Summer Forsythe did much of the damage, scoring six of her 12 points. Bolton added her second three-pointer of the game.
"Summer doesn't score a lot of points, but she does all the little things," said Bolton, the team's only senior. "She boxes out and rebounds as good as anybody and she doesn't make a lot of mistakes. . . . She didn't play like a freshman tonight."
Cougars Coach David Wade also was impressed by Forsythe--and Baldwin and Bolton and Kidwell.
"We've got good quickness, but they're quicker than us across the board," said Wade, whose team outrebounded Loudoun County but committed more turnovers. "I swear, I don't know how those four girls go hard like that for a full ballgame. I thought they got tired, but they still played extremely hard."
Stuarts Draft (19-5)--M. Campbell 8 2-2 18, Stuart 1 0-0 3, Brown 4 6-8 14, L. Campbell 6 1-2 15, H. Campbell 3 2-2 9, Conyers 0 0-1 0, Fitzgerald 1 0-0 2. Totals 23 11-15 61.
Loudoun County (23-1)--Kidwell 3 1-3 8, James 2 2-4 6, Bolton 9 4-7 24, Baldwin 7 0-1 15, Forsythe 6 0-0 12, Grimes 1 0-0 2. Totals 28 7-15 67.
Halftime: Loudoun County, 39-29.
Three-point goals: Stuarts Draft 4 (L. Campbell 2, H. Campbell, Stuart); Loudoun County 4 (Bolton 2, Baldwin, Kidwell).
CAPTION: Above, Cougars' Tiffany Brown tries to get past Stacy James. Below, Raiders' Tara Kidwell, who had eight points and five steals, gives Cougars' Jamie Barthelemy the cold shoulder in quarterfinal win.
CAPTION: Loudoun County's Kim Grimes rises for shot in Raiders' 67-61 victory over Stuarts Draft in AA Region II quarterfinal.