By Randy Arrington
LURAY, Jan. 27 — Shooting 70 percent from the floor in the first half, the Luray Bulldogs enjoyed a comfortable lead for most of Friday night’s Bull Run District matchup with Central of Woodstock. However, the Falcons made a late surge, outscoring the home team 18-11 in the final eight minutes and closing the gap to as little as two points with just 30 seconds remaining. The Bulldogs answered the challenge and hit four of their six free throws in the final minute to seal a 69-64 district win.
The victory puts Luray firmly in fifth position in the nine-team Bull Run District, as they flip-flop the No. 5 and No. 6 spots with Central. Both teams came into Friday night’s matchup off losses earlier in the week; both had also won three of their last five; and both had losing streaks prior to their recent upswing — Central had lost four in a row, and Luray had lost five in a row.
Yet, what was anticipated as an even matchup, quickly turned into an early runaway behind 19 first-half points from Luray’s Matthew Owens. The freshman hit five shots from beyond the arc, while the Bulldogs drained a total of eight three-pointers in the first two quarters. Luray lead 22-14 after the first eight minutes, and then 41-31 at the half. The Bulldogs’ 41 first-half points was one of their most prolific efforts on offense this season.
Although the Bulldogs outpaced the Falcons in each of the first three quarters, the margin was only two points in both the second and third quarters. After posting 10 points in the first half, Central’s Jake Boyce put up nine of the Falcons’ 15 points in the third quarter. However, despite a slight momentum swing toward the Falcons, the Bulldogs still carried a 12-point margin, 58-46, into the final frame.
Nine turnovers in the second half by the Bulldogs gave the Falcons some momentum, but hitting another five three-pointers helped keep the home team in the game. Luray junior Landon Vile hit three of his four three-pointers on the night in the second half, including two in the decisive fourth quarter. His last three-pointer left the score at 65-56…and that’s when the Falcons made a push.
Central’s Wilmer Barahona put up 11 of his 18 points on the night in the first half. However, the senior also hit a key three-pointer in the final two minutes that closed the deficit from nine, to just six points at 65-59. Boyce then hit a basket that made it 65-61, followed by a jumper from senior Zachary Cooper that narrowed the gap to just two points, 66-64, with :30.9 on the clock.
After only missing a total of six shots in the first half, the Bulldogs only hit two shots from the floor in the fourth quarter — both three-pointers. The ball changed possessions nearly a half dozen times in the final minute, as both teams traded turnovers in a one-possession game. However it was free throws that ultimately put the game away, as junior Ryder Liscomb and Owens both went 1-for-2 at the line, while senior Noah Lawson came off the bench to go 2-for-2 and seal the game in the final seconds.
Owens finished the game with a team- and career-high 22 points, while senior Bailey Graybeal scored 15 points and Vile had 12. Of the Bulldogs’ 13 three-pointers on the night, Owens had five, Vile had four, Graybeal had three and sophomore Blake Jenkins had one. Junior Christian Lentz added seven points on the night, while Liscomb had six.
The Falcons were lead by Boyce with a game-high 23 points, while Barahona finished with 18. The two seniors accounted for 41 of Central’s 64 points. Cooper had eight points on the night, while senior Benjamin Walters added seven.
With the win, Luray moves to 6-12 overall and 5-8 in the Bull Run. Next up, the Bulldogs travel to Page County High School for a doubleheader on Tuesday, Jan. 31. The boys varsity tips-off at 6 p.m., while the girls varsity follows at about 7:30 p.m. PVN Sports will be accompanying the NFHS livestream for that doubleheader.
With the loss, Central drops to 6-11 overall and 5-7 in the Bull Run. Next up, the Falcons will be at James Wood HS on Monday night before hosting Rappahannock and Page County on Thursday and Friday, respectively.
For full schedules, rosters and standings — check out the Bull Run District website.
The PVN Sports broadcast crew selected
Matthew Owens and Jake Boyce
as the Blue Ridge Bank “Players of the Game“.
Owens, a freshman, finished with a career-high 22 points on Friday night against Central — including five three-pointers — while Boyce, a senior, posted a game-high 23 points for the Falcons.