Mary Clougherty did a double take. As the sophomore guard worked the ball upcourt during Chantilly’s still nascent home game against crosstown rival Westfield, she swore she heard Chargers Coach Kurt Sporkmann shout, “Red hot!”
“The first time, I’m like, ‘That’s not one of my plays,’ ” Clougherty said.
It wasn’t — Sporkmann was actually barking out “spread high,” an offensive set in which a post player ventures out to the top of the key and opens the lane for a cutting guard. But what Clougherty misheard was a more apt description of her play in Chantilly’s 45-35 Virginia Conference 5 victory Friday night in Chantilly.
In the first half, Clougherty matched Westfield’s output as a team with 11 of her game-high 19 points, and the Chargers (12-4, 2-1 Conference 5) carried a 23-11 lead into the locker room.
That sequence included a 4-minute 20-second stretch to open the second quarter when Chantilly’s physical defense held the Bulldogs without a bucket.
“Every basketball game has its up and downs — and it’s not that we did anything special,” Sporkmann said.
“We just executed our offense and did what we had to do, and it just so happens that during that time, they went through their lull. It’s the nature of basketball and the nature of this conference. Every night is going to be a fight.”
Clougherty’s AAU teammate and fellow sophomore Simone Jeffries contributed to that lull. She’s a volleyball player for Chantilly — the team’s starting middle blocker — and as such, she’s not accustomed to being outjumped at critical junctures.
“I don’t like people scoring on me,” Jeffries said. “I just block people.”
The victory provides a much-needed bounce back for a Chantilly squad that was held to a season-low 25 points in a loss to Oakton on Tuesday.
“We just saw it as one game, and we were going to come back and play all the others,” Clougherty said. “We’re just going to keep fighting, no matter the scoreboard.”
That scoreboard read 37-33 with four minutes left following a midrange jumper from Westfield’s Isabel Kearsley. Emily McNamara (17 points) paced the Bulldogs (8-4, 2-3) with a series of decisive drives, but Chantilly responded with a 9-2 run to quash the late comeback threat.
“I think we just needed to slow down and keep running our plays,” Clougherty said. “We tried to find what we were doing in the first quarter, and I think we did. We got off the rails a bit, but we stepped up and realized we needed to finish strong.”