By Randy Arrington
McGAHEYSVILLE, Feb. 29 — For the second time in 48 hours, it looked as if Luray would pick up their second loss of the season.
After winning a Region 2B semifinal two nights earlier with a buzzer beater over rival Page County, the Bulldogs overcame a double-digit deficit at halftime Saturday night to defeat Strasburg, 59-58, to claim the regional championship.
“We play to the end,” LHS standout sophomore Emilee Weakley said after the game. “We work hard, we play together, and we never give up.”
Weakley scored 33 of Luray’s 59 points, with 15 of those coming in the decisive fourth quarter.
No. 2 seed Strasburg had their way with top-seeded Luray in the first half. The Bulldogs shot a dismal 5-for-22 from the floor in the first two frames, while the Rams got a lot of production in the paint from 6’4” senior forward Christyan Reid, who had a team-high 17 points on the night. Strasburg went to the locker room up 28-18.
But Strasburg picked up crucial fouls in the first half. Luray scored seven of its 18 first half points from the charity stripe, and only hit four shots from the floor in the first 16 minutes, including one by Weakley at the buzzer to end the half.
“Most of their best players had two fouls in the first half,” LHS head coach Joe Lucas said, “so in the second half we wanted two keep attacking them.”
Junior Brynlee Burrill took over in the third quarter, hitting three shots from beyond the arc and scoring 11 of her 19 points on the night in the third. The Bulldogs went on an 18-13 run to narrow the deficit to five heading into the final frame.
A tense moment came with 1:04 left in the third, when Weakley picked up her fourth foul. After briefly leaving the game, the standout sophomore hit two free throws and two shots in the first minute of the fourth to give Luray its first lead of the game, 42-41. The lead would change five more times before the final buzzer.
Sophomore Averie Alger stole the ball and went down the court to hit a layup that gave Luray a 50-49 lead with 3:35 remaining. Freshman Jaidyn McClung hit the front end of two fouls shots to tie the game at 53-53 a little more than a minute later. McClung finished with five points.
In the final 2:17, the Bulldogs would win it at the foul line shooting 6-for-10, while the Rams would only hit two more buckets. SHS senior Jaden Alsberry hit a shot underneath with 8.8 seconds left to bring the Rams within one, but they would get no closer. Alsberry finished with 14 points.
“We just keep grinding,” Coach Lucas said of the last two narrow tournament wins. “They kept fighting.”
Luray (27-1) now moves on to the first round of the Group 2A state tournament next Friday, March 6 to face either Thomas Jefferson High School (Richmond) or Poquoson High School.
Two years ago, Luray only won four games.
“This is what we’re trying to build here,” Coach Lucas said. “It’s the kids… they’ve been playing together two years… some of them three years… and they work and work and work… and they keep getting better and better and better.”