Luray wins 3rd-straight Region B championship by 19-point margin over Clarke County

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Region B championship

By Randy Arrington

LURAY, Feb. 26 — Bull Run District regular season champs. Check. Bull Run District tournament champs. Check. Region B tournament champions. Check — and make it a three-peat, for a second-straight week.

Now, just one more goal to check off for the ’21-’22 season, and Bulldog Nation is hoping for three more games in this magical run that has seen the Luray girls basketball team accumulate a 67-4 record over the last three seasons.

History continues to be made as the Bulldogs captured their third-straight Region B championship on Saturday with another dominating performance, 76-57, over Clarke County. The 19-point margin of victory came just one week after defeating the Eagles by 14 to claim their third-consecutive Bull Run tournament title.

“It’s really special,” LHS head coach Joe Lucas said after Saturday’s game. “We were talking about it in the locker room…a lot of kids go through high school and never win a [championship]…it’s rare and it’s special…we’ve had the same [core] group for three or four years…they’re just winners…”

The back of a maroon T-shirt being donned by some Bulldog faithful this season contains three lines — the top line reads “Unfinished Business” with a line through it, referring to two years ago when Luray fell short in the state championship to Gate City; the middle line reads “Finished Business” with a line through it, referencing the Bulldogs’ 13-0 run to the program’s first state title last season over Gate City; and the bottom line reads “Back to Business.”

Now, three games stand between Luray and “finished business” once again.

With few exceptions this season, the Bulldogs have dominated their opponents. Combing a stifling, aggressive defense with a deep rotating bench and the ability to score 60 to 70 points a game has been more than nearly every team on their schedule has been able to overcome.

“We play at a pace that other teams are uncomfortable with,” Coach Lucas said. “If we can do that for four quarters, I think it’s to our advantage.”

The Bulldogs have put up more than 60 points in 20 of 27 games this season, and they have surpassed 70 points five times, including the last three consecutive games during the Region B tournament. In fact, the last two games set new record-highs for the Bulldogs, including their season-high of 76 points in the Region B championship.

The bench has developed down the line over the course of the season, which has improved Luray’s overall depth, and the top scorers are putting up bigger and bigger numbers the deeper the Bulldogs go into the season. As good as they are, the Bulldogs seem to keep getting better.

“I think so,” Coach Lucas said after winning the region championship. “You always want to be peaking in February and March.”

After posting 97 points in the Bull Run tournament last week, senior Emilee Weakley scored a total of 110 points this week during three games in the Region B tournament, which brings her career total to 2,504 points — exactly 300 points behind the mark of 2,804 that East Rockingham’s Tyler Nickel hit on Tuesday night to become the all-time leading scorer in Virginia high school basketball.

On Saturday, Luray once again wasted no time in taking control of the game, as they lead 23-7 after the first quarter and took a 42-22 lead into the half. Weakly posted 14 in each period for 28 first-half points. The Div-II Shepherd University signee finished the night with 35.

The Eagles put up a tougher fight in the second half, as they got 12 fourth-quarter points from first team All-District selection Ellie Brumback. The senior finished the night with 21 points. Junior Hailey Evans had eight.

Clarke County finishes the season at 17-9 and will advance to a state quarterfinal next Friday. It’s the Eagles’ first state playoff berth since 2015.

Following Weakly’s 35 points on Saturday, junior Jaidyn McClung remained steady with 12 points, senior Amber Tharpe put up 10 points with three shots from beyond the arc, and senior Lexi Vile added seven.

With the win in the Region B championship, Luray moves to 25-2 on the season and will host the Region A runner-up Brunswick County in the VHSL 2A state quarterfinal on Friday, March 4 at 6:30 p.m.

After buzzing through regional competition, the Bulldogs now face the unknown in other regions of the state. So, how does a coach keep his team prepared and focused for tougher competition when they are beating teams by an average of 34 points in the region tournament?

“It starts in practice,” Coach Lucas said. “We design ways to test them, and they know they are going to get tested.”

The Bulldogs of Brunswick…yes, the Bulldogs…are 17-6 on the season and are coming off a 67-31 loss to John Marshall (16-6) on Friday night in the Region A championship. Brunswick has been held to under 40 points in six of their 23 games this season. They have only surpassed 60 points four times, and their season-high of 63 points came against Randolph-Henry (5-9) late in the season.

“They are athletic…they try to pressure you,” Coach Lucas said. “We scouted them at John Marshall last night…”

Brunswick reached the Region A title game after a 61-56 win over Windsor in the quarterfinal round. Brunswick played Windsor four times this season and split with them 2-2. In the semifinal, they defeated Bluestone 50-35.

The Bulldogs of Brunswick are a young team with six sophomores and three freshman among 11 players, while only dressing out one senior and one junior. While Brunswick went 10-1 at homes this season, they are 4-4 on the road. Brunswick finished 10-3 in the Tri Rivers District.

As long as they win, the Bulldogs of Luray should be hosting until they reach the 2A state championship, which will be held at VCU’s Siegel Center in Richmond in about two weeks.

For full schedules, rosters and standings — check out the Bull Run District website.

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