Clarke girls to face Lancaster state quarterfinal
BERRYVILLE — It was almost exactly six years ago when Clarke County’s girls’ basketball team started its state championship run.
And although the players and the tournament format have changed over the years, the Eagles’ first round opponent in today’s state quarterfinal will be the same one Clarke coach Tim Lawrence’s state championship team faced in 2007.
The Eagles (22-6) face Region-A champion Lancaster (23-5) in today’s Group A, Division 2 state semifinal game at 5:30 p.m. at Old Dominion University.
Clarke County, which was the Region B champ and hosted Lancaster at Strasburg High School in 2007, must travel as the regional runner-up this time to face the Northern Neck District regular season champs.
The Eagles defeated Lancaster 74-50 in their last meeting in the state quarterfinals on March 2, 2007.
Both teams have players with older siblings who played in the 2007 game, and Lawrence and Lancaster coach Joanne Webb-Fary return. That gives both coaches a little familiarity to draw on with today’s winner advancing to face the Central (Wise)-Patrick Henry (Glade Spring) quarterfinal winner in next Friday’s Group A state semifinals at 12:15 p.m. at the Siegel Center in Richmond.
“I do remember that they’re very disciplined,” said Webb-Fary of Clarke County. “I’m sure they’re quick and have a good basketball I.Q. With George Mason, Floyd County and Clarke County, the basketball I.Q. is pretty high.”
This will be Webb-Fary’s sixth state tournament appearance with the Red Devils, who finished as the Group A, Division 2 runner-up in both 2008 and 2010.
Lawrence said he expects the Red Devils to try to push the pace as much as they can.
“They’re a team that wants to try to get into an uptempo game,” Lawrence said. “They’re very, very athletic and an excellent rebounding team and an excellent transition team.”
The Red Devils went 3-2 against district and Region A-rival Northumberland. Lancaster edged Northumberland 45-44 in the Region A championship. The Red Devils’ regional win came on the heels of a loss to Northumberland in the district tournament championship.
Lancaster also split with district rival Colonial Beach and the Red Devils’ other two losses came against Group AAA opponents Nansemond River (67-42) and Meadowbrook (76-28) in the Lloyd C. Bird Tournament.
Webb-Fary said the Northern Neck District has improved and all of their tough games against Northumberland (four of the five games were decided by 5 points or less) have helped prepare her team for the state tournament.
“From top to bottom we’re the stronger team but [Northumberland] knows our weaknesses,” Webb-Fary said. “We played them five times and they know what we do and we know what they do but it does help when you get in close games.”
The Red Devils are led by Northern Neck District Player of the Year Shamerah Taylor, a 5-foot-7 senior guard who averages 12 points, three rebounds and two steals. Junior forward Anesha White, the younger sister of former Lancaster standout Andrea White (who was a freshman on the 2007 team that lost to Clarke and is now a junior forward at Georgetown University), earned second team All-Northern Neck District honors and junior forward Sharda Beane, who comes off the bench, earned first team all-district honors for the Red Devils. The rest of Lancaster’s starting five includes guard Trenae Henderson and 6-4 senior center Aleyah Davenport.
Lawrence said Clarke County must account for Davenport and a Lancaster team that averages more than 30 rebounds per game.
“We do know that they have a real matchup nightmare in that they have a 6-4 post player [Davenport] whose averaging quite a few blocked shots and is a real load in terms of catching the ball down in the post,” Lawrence said. “It’s going to be a really big challenge but we’re excited about it.”
The Eagles do have a three players who are at least 5-10 that can match-up with Davenport in the paint.
Sophomores Sydney Chrane (6-0), Anna Blue Catlett and Allison Hicks (both 5-10) give the Eagles plenty of size and they’ve combined to average about 17 rebounds per game.
Chrane, a first team All-Region B and Bull Run District selection (whose older sister Sarah played on the Eagles’ 2007 team), leads Clarke County in points (18.7) and rebounding (8.6). Catlett, a second team All-Bull Run selection, averages 12.9 points and four rebounds while Hicks averages 4.8 points and 4.2 rebounds.
“We’re going to have to do a great job defensively, particularly in transition defense,” Lawrence said. “We’re going to have to make sure we get back. The other key for us is rebounding. They attack the glass really well so if we can rebound and limit their second-chance opportunities then we’ll give ourselves a great chance to win. If we don’t rebound well, it could be a long afternoon for us.”
Although Davenport gives Lancaster a height advantage, Webb-Fary said her team hasn’t faced many players like Chrane and Catlett, who possess both the size to play inside but the range and ability to shoot from outside.
“We have some girls that we’ve played that were 5-10 but we haven’t played anybody that’s [Chrane’s] size that we have to defend [away from the basket],” Webb-Fary said. “Defense is our strength. We just need to hone in on their shooters and defend [in the paint] as best as we can.”
Webb-Fary said the state tournament appearance was a first for her and the program back in 2007, but she thinks her team will be more prepared for the playoff atmosphere today.
“This group — their freshman year they played George Mason in the quarterfinals so those girls have that experience of playing in the quarterfinals,” Webb-Fary said. “I don’t foresee them being wide-eyed. Every team at this point is going to be a formidable foe and this will be a formidable challenge. I don’t think we’ll be overwhelmed [by the state tournament stage].”
— Contact Robert Stocks at firstname.lastname@example.org
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