Fluco girls headed to semifinals

Fluco girls run up big lead in Region quarterfinals

Hold on to win 59-51

By Duncan Nixon, correspondent

The Flying Flucos girls’ basketball team had to travel over an hour and a half for their quarterfinal match-up in the Class C Region 3 playoffs on Friday (Feb. 15). The long bus ride did not have any apparent adverse effect. Behind Coach Chad White’s signature pressing defense and an extremely upscale offense, the Flucos ran out to an overwhelming 39-20 halftime lead over the Red Devils of Rustburg High.

This not the NBA, where 19-point deficits can be occasionally be overcome because teams are able to score 30 or more per quarter. This is a Fluco lead of 19 over a team they have held to 20 in the first half. Nonetheless, the Red Devils did not fold. They managed to cut the lead to 11 at the end of the third quarter. The first six points of the fourth quarter were back-to-back three-point shots by the Red Devils, and they were within five.

However, as White pointed out after the game, although he has no veteran seniors in his starting line-up, juniors Nevaeh Ivory, Mya Wright and Jules Shepherd have logged a lot of minutes of playing time in the past three years. The Flucos were not rattled despite a raucous crowd in a bandbox gym, and they won the rest of the fourth quarter by three for an eight-point win.

The Flucos’ first half charge into the lead was helped enormously by accurate three-point shooting. White does not emphasize the three-point shot, but he has several players who will not turn down an open three. In the first quarter, which the Flucos won 20-8, Ivory and Wright both sank two threes. Freshman center Khamare Steppe added five points on the inside.

The Flucos continued their dominance in the second quarter, outscoring the Red Devils 19-12. Shepherd led the way with eight, Ivory had six and Wright had five, including a third three-pointer. Five three-point baskets in a half for the Flucos is very unusual, and it clearly dazed the Red Devils. In the second half, the Flucos did not make a single three-pointer.

In the third quarter, the Red Devils hit three three-point shots while scoring 15. The Flucos managed only three two-pointers and a free throw. Fluco baskets came from Ivory, Shepherd and the Flucos’ only senior, Kayla Campbell, who scored on a lay-in on a nice pass from Ivory.

After Rustburg cut the lead to five with two three-pointers, White called a timeout and the Red Devil crowd was really loud. After the timeout, Ivory drove the lane for a basket and the Flucos were up by seven. Ivory then went to the line for a one-and-one with just over four minutes remaining. She calmly sank both free throws to return the lead to nine and somewhat quiet the crowd. Ivory added another free throw and a lay-in and the Flucos were up by 12 with 2:15 remaining and they were pretty much home free.

Down the stretch in the last two minutes Steppe and Wright both made two free throws. A Rustburg three-point shot with 19 seconds left did cut the lead back to seven, but Steppe made a fierce block on a Rustburg attempt to cut the lead to five and Wright intercepted an inbound, was fouled, and made one of two to close the scoring.

As is almost always the case, Ivory led the Flucos in scoring with 25. Wright had 13 and Shepherd 10. The two tallest Flucos – Steppe, who is listed at 6-1 and Wright, who is listed at 6-0 – had nine rebounds each, and point guard Shepherd had eight rebounds. Ivory, who passes well off her hard drives to the basket, recorded six assists.

As a result of their win over Rustburg, the Flucos moved on to the Class 3 Region C semifinals. As the number five seed in the tournament, the Flucos played Tuesday (Feb. 19) against number one seed Spotswood High. Spotswood’s only loss this season was in a tournament in Newark, N.J. The Flucos lost the season-ending game 48-73.

The Virginia High School League divides all high schools in the state into six classes based on size of the student body. The Flucos are in Class 3, which is the class for smaller medium-size high schools. The Jefferson District provides the Flucos with tough competition as five of the schools in the District are in Classes 4 or 5, which puts the Flucos consistently up against bigger high schools.

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