Three times in the first half last night, a Marshall girls' basketball player had a shot dangle on the rim, on the verge of caroming off, only to ripple through the net. It is the kind of home-court good fortune the Statesmen have come to expect on that particular end of the floor.
All those rolls in recent weeks have snowballed into one big one, a winning streak that has stretched to 18 games after a 58-44 victory over Chantilly last night in the first round of the Northern Region tournament.
The Statesmen rattled off the first 17 points of the second half, almost all of them inside, to break open a modestly close game. They furthered their region title hopes with the same, successful formula -- sturdy defense, a steady diet of seniors Maya Al-Shingieti and KT Mesich inside, senior Nicole Harrison outside and on drives to the hoop, and key contributions here and there from a host of others.
"They went inside, and that just kills us," said Chantilly Coach John Kelly, whose team trailed by five late in the second quarter. "That's where we've struggled all year long -- trying to get an inside game to match other teams."
Those occasional lucky bounces don't help either, in a gym where the Statesmen have won 48 of their past 53 games.
"It does feel like the last three or four [home] games in the first half we've gotten some really nice rolls," said Marshall Coach Noel Klippenstein, recalling one in particular from the Liberty District quarterfinals, when a Harrison three-pointer twice bounced over the height of the backboard before dropping through.
"It seems like that end is our get-going end," Harrison said, motioning to the other end of the court. "And in the second half down here, we're always rolling."
Harrison led Marshall (22-4) with 16 points and six steals, and Al-Shingieti added 13 points and four steals. The Statesmen are one win away from making a second straight trip to the Patriot Center for the region semifinals.
Chantilly (12-12), which committed 27 turnovers last night, had reached seven consecutive region tournaments before falling short last year. The Chargers, seeded sixth in the Concorde District tournament, pulled an upset over Centreville in the district quarterfinals to qualify this season.
Marshall 58, Chantilly 44
Double Sixes: Chantilly had as many three-pointers -- six -- as two-pointers. The Chargers made 110 three-pointers this season.
Up Next: Marshall advances to the region quarterfinals to host West Springfield at 7:30 tonight. Like Marshall, the Spartans feature two post players, Caroline Nicholson and Amy Grooms.