Woodbridge assistant coach Mike Wilson's words of encouragement at halftime proved prophetic. With the Vikings trailing, 26-19, at the break, Wilson shouted, "It's a new game," to the players as they walked back to the court.
The Vikings took those words to heart, scoring nine straight points to begin the second half en route to a 51-45 victory over host Hylton.
Senior Angela Simms and sophomore Liana Wooten led the second-half charge, combining for seven of Woodbridge's nine points during that four-minute span, in which the Vikings also forced nine turnovers.
"We went into the locker room and were pretty down," said Simms, who finished the game with 13 points. "But Coach [George Washington] told us we had to . . . play how we're capable of playing. . . . We did what we're accustomed to doing, which is scrap for the ball and play hard."
The Vikings managed to penetrate Hylton's zone defense in the second half after being stymied by it for much of the first half. Wooten hit a three-pointer from the top of the key to begin the second half. Simms scored on consecutive driving layups to tie the score at 26. And sophomore guard Kristin Portell gave the Vikings the lead with a driving layup with 4 minutes 40 seconds remaining in the third quarter.
Portell, who scored a game-high 21 points, had to be assisted off the floor after suffering an ankle injury late in the fourth quarter.
Hylton (1-2) made a run at the lead in the fourth quarter, narrowing Woodbridge's lead to 46-42 after an 8-2 run capped by sophomore guard Jennifer Rhodan's jump shot with 2:10 left. The Vikings (3-2) hit their free throws down the stretch, and Hylton got no closer.
"I think we kind of surprised them, and it took them a little while to figure out how to handle our defense," Hylton Coach Melvin Smith said. "We made our shots, and we didn't panic. But for a few minutes stretch in the third quarter, we panicked and turned the ball over, and that was the difference."
Simms had been waiting a long time for a game like this. The forward--who was a starter her sophomore season--spent most of last year watching from the sidelines as the Vikings advanced to the Virginia AAA state semifinals, her playing limited to a few games by a severely sprained ankle. With last year's leading scorers--Orion Wake and Tamika Dudley--graduated, Simms has seized the opportunity to help lead this year's team.
"It really does feel great," Simms said of getting to play this year. "I always hear your junior year is the important year as far as colleges and recruiting go. But after having a disappointing junior year, it feels great to know that I can contribute."
With Portell's injury, Woodbridge left the gym even more banged-up than it had been entering the game. Senior Kanee Booth, still recovering from a sprained ankle, did not suit up for the game. Booth and Portell are the only two returning starters from last year's team.