By Randy Arrington
LURAY, Feb. 20 — A 33-year span that saw only two state titles added another banner on Saturday afternoon, as the Luray High School girls basketball team captured the 2A title the old-fashioned way — they earned it.
LHS earned state titles in 2019 (boys 4×100 relay team) and in 2015 (cheerleading). Before that, it was 1988 when assistant basketball coach Sarah Getz lead the Bulldogs to a state championship in volleyball. There were four boys basketball state titles before that, and a cross country crown as well — but Bulldog fans have never celebrated a state championship in girls basketball.
Well, the wait is over.
The Bulldogs traveled 304 miles to Gate City over nearly five hours on Friday — by comparison, New York City lies 319 miles from Luray. The Blue Devils (Region D champion) entered the game as confident defending 2A state champs with a record of 17-1. The Bulldogs (Region B champ) entered at 12-0 after winning the state semifinal at King William by 59 points. The Region D champion has dominated the state tournament in recent years, winning seven of the last eight titles.
On Saturday, the Blue Devils jumped out to a 6-2 lead in the opening minutes behind Division-I talent senior Sarah Thompson. However, Luray got 10-straight points from junior All-State guard Emilee Weakley and took a 12-8 lead after the first quarter.
Luray head coach Joe Lucas ordered up some pressure defense in the second period and the Bulldogs began to score in bunches in transition. The visitors outscored the home-standing Blue Devils by a 20-12 margin in the second frame — leading by as many as 15 — and took a 32-20 lead into the half.
Weakley scored 19 of her game-high 27 points in the first half before the Bulldogs went cold in the third quarter — only hitting two shots from the floor for only four points over eight minutes.
The Blue Devils flipped the script and went on a 20-4 run in the third period,. The defending state champs opened up the second half by tying the game on a 12-0 run in the first four minutes. Luray did not score over the first 6:10 of the third quarter.
Gate City took the first half wind from Luray and carried the momentum and a four-point lead into the fourth quarter — but the momentum that carried both teams would change in the final frame.
Thompson scored her last points of the game in the third quarter, finishing with 19 points (12 in the first half). Weakley would put up six points in the final frame, but Luray’s leader fouled out with 3:25 remaining in the game.
But the Bulldogs were fueled by the words of their coach after the state semifinal win at King William: “We know to win the state championship, it has to be a team effort.”
And he was right.
After leading by as many as 15 in the first half and then trailing by as many as five in the fourth, Luray pulled together behind the three-point shooting of junior Amber Tharpe and the inside play of junior Lexie Vile.
The game was tied 54-54 with 1:37 left. Senior Brynlee Burrill then scored four of her nine points on the night within a span of 15 seconds that turned the game in Luray’s favor. Two quick layups by Burrill off tunovers, including a steal by Burrill, put Luray up 59-54 in the final minute. The Bulldogs closed out the game at the free throw line behind the calm shooting of Vile and sophomore Jaidyn McClung.
Luray (13-0) claimed its first 2A state title in girls basketball with a 61-56 win over a tough and experienced Gate City (17-2) team.
The “Family” theme Coach Lucas promotes in his program proved to be the difference in the final minutes of the state championship — just as he predicted.
“We know to win the state championship, it has to be a team effort.”
LHS will now make a place in the trophy case for only its third state title since 1988 — and it came through a hard-earned, hard-fought team effort.
Luray headed back to 2A state championship after 59-point win in semifinal
Bulldogs roll to 30-point win in Region 2B championship
Luray advances to Region B championship versus Staunton
Luray moves to 7-0 with second win over Page, 66-51
Don’t forget the 2019 Boys 4×1 relay team! They won the state championship!
not to nit pick but they have won a state title in competition cheer in 2015 and in track 4×100 in 2019
The article did mention this
The article made mention of both of those championship teams.
Thank you for coming to our defense David… but this text was edited (twice) after we received feedback that we had overlooked those teams. We appreciate the feedback on both points.