After banking in a three-pointer from the left baseline, in what was perhaps the wildest shot of her basketball career, Woodgrove center Stephanie Purnell hustled back to play defense late in the second quarter of Friday night’s game against Loudoun County. But before she did, she flashed a smile and a shrug to her teammates on the bench, body language the Wolverines so desperately needed during a sluggish first half.
It was Purnell’s night, and the six-foot senior carried her teammates along for the ride in a 58-49 victory in Purcellville. Purnell posted a season-high 21 points and added 18 rebounds and the Wolverines applied a coldly efficient press to fend off the Raiders in a battle of AA Dulles District unbeatens.
“It started off a little shaky. Nobody was hitting any shots,” Purnell said. “We know this is a big game, you know, for the district standings, the region standings, and to also get the tournament style play we might see in the postseason.”
Woodgrove Coach Kevin Copley briefed his girls on Loudoun County’s youth-filled roster – which features no seniors and just two juniors roster – and how to apply as much pressure as possible with a backcourt zone trap.
But it was the Raiders (11-2, 8-1 AA Dulles) who looked like seasoned veterans in the first half behind the offensive play of junior forward Maggie Phillips, who scored eight of her 14 points before the break. Woodgrove (10-1, 9-0) scored just six points in the first quarter, and had no offensive rhythm until Purnell reeled off 11 straight points in the last three minutes of the second quarter, which pulled the Wolverines within 24-23 at the half.
The zone press began to cause erratic turnovers in the second half and triggered a 17-5 Woodgrove run. On one particular play that displayed the Raiders’ inexperience, a Loudoun County guard attempted to bounce the ball off of Woodgrove’s Brooke Basinger during an inbounds play underneath the Wolverines’ basket. But Basinger (14 points) caught the ball and pivoted for a layup and a foul that gave Woodgrove a 35-29 edge and left Loudon County looking flustered.
“They’re a good basketball team,” Copley said. “They’re young. We thought their youth would be exposed a little bit by the pressure.”
Purnell gave Woodgrove the balance it needed in the second half of a frenetically paced game. She scored eight of her 10 second-half points in the fourth quarter, including baskets on three consecutive possessions. Her put-back with just over three minutes to play gave the Wolverines a 54-42 advantage.
“I think she did an awesome job, second quarter through fourth quarter. First quarter, offensively, there was no offense. . . . We couldn’t make a shot if we were standing right on the basket,” Copley said. “We have to take advantage of Stephanie’s height, and her post presence inside. A lot of teams, you know they double and triple team her sometimes, but she still puts the ball in the hole.”