With 52 seconds remaining in the third quarter of Saturday’s 6A semifinal, Bethel’s Kayla James launched a mid-range jumper from an awkward angle in the corner. The odd bank shot would be the Bruins’ last field goal for nearly seven minutes.
After struggling with turnovers and sputtering in transition for most of the night, No. 12 Stonewall Jackson (22-6) pieced together a 16-0 run, spanning the majority of fourth quarter en route to a 64-48 win at Robinson.
“I think it just clicked with our kids that this could possibly be it,” Raiders Coach Diana Martinez said. “This last 16 minutes, we really stressed to them playing the best basketball that you can, strapping down defensively and making sure on offense that we had poise and executed.”
In the first half, that offense consisted of one trick: Wake Forest recruit Nicole Floyd pulling up and sinking mid-range jumpers. Her usual dominance inside was stymied by staunch defense at the point of attack by Bethel’s Britani Bryson.
“I think a lot of the time I was rushing [layups], and I wasn’t posting up exactly on the block, so the spacing was wrong,” Floyd said of the first half. She finished with 28 points and 11 rebounds.
On defense, Martinez realized the Raiders were allowing Bruins guard Nyra Williams (12 points) too much latitude as a ball handler. Junior Rachel Burns identified the white center line on the multi-sport floor as the spot to set up their forward defense.
“When we got together, we realized that we couldn’t keep letting [Williams] go straight coast-to-coast,” Burns said. “We needed to get above the volleyball line and sit down on defense instead of reaching and letting her blow right past us. That’s what got Nicole into foul trouble.”
Floyd picked up her fourth in the midst of the Raiders’ run, and junior Sydney Jordan filled the low spot of the 2-1-2 zone without a hitch. During the timeout following Floyd’s departure, the senior squatted in a catcher’s stance and coached up the players set to take the floor.
“I just let them know that I had four, and that I wasn’t going be able to help,” Floyd said.
Down a flight of stairs, behind closed doors of the women’s locker room at Robinson, the Raiders’ cheer was “we goin’ to the ‘ship.” They’ll play Cosby for the 6A title on Friday at the Siegel Center in Richmond.