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Eagle girls fight off Cougar challenge to win Classic, 48-46

Sunday, Dec. 29 | By Fred Hodge
The Liberty Eagles won the Fauquier County Winter Classic girls basketball touranment Saturday. --Fauquier Times Staff Photo/Randy Litzinger
With eight minutes remaining Saturday at Fauquier High School, the Kettle Run Cougars appeared ready to claim the girls basketball title of the first annual Fauquier County Winter Classic.

Yet when the hotly contested battled ended, it was the Liberty Eagles who laid claim to the trophy.

Kettle Run led since the opening 66 seconds of the championship game and held a 39-29 advantage heading into the final quarter, only to see the Eagles turn up the defensive pressure.

Liberty forced 12 turnovers down the stretch to score the first seven points of the final quarter. The eventual winners took their first lead since the first quarter with 2:13 to play when India Turner connected on a 17-footer from the left side.

The lead was momentary, as Cougar Addy Foudray launched a successful 3-pointer from 21 feet to reclaim the lead at 45-43 with 1:51 to play.

Foudray hit a midrange jumper 36 seconds later for a 46-43 edge, but Kettle Run would not score again.

A Kiana Smith layup cut the margin to one at the 59-second mark, and she made the second half of a two free throw opportunity with 37.7 seconds to play for a 46-46 deadlock.

Smith then came up with a crucial steal with 24 seconds remaining, passing to Ashley Lane, who drew a foul at midcourt with 17.6 showing on the clock. Lane made both free throws for the final 48-46 score.

Kettle Run had built a 13-8 margin after one period and led 27-19 by halftime. The Eagles then came up with a steal with four second to go to ensure their fifth win of the season.

Lane tallied 13 of her 14 points in the fourth quarter on a 9-for-10 effort from the free throw line and two baskets. The sophomore point said she felt relaxed at the charity stripe even when seeking to break the very late tie.

"I used to, but I don't anymore," Lane responded when asked if she suffered from nerves in such situations. "Free throws are a great way to score without the clock running. They are very important."

Lane said she had been in a recent slump and hoped the championship game would mark improved play in the new year.

Liberty coach Ashton Girolmo credited her unit's resolve for setting the stage for the comeback. "We were just very flat . . . not ready to play," she said of the opening minutes and much of the first three quarters, but she began a switch on the floor as the fourth quarter began.

"Their energy level picked up. Defensively, we were getting stops," Girolmo continued. We do preach defense. It's must if you are going t9o go out and win games."

Turner, who finished with a team-high 17 points, said the thought of "we are not about to lose to this team" crossed her mind repeatedly when the Eagles were trailing Kettle Run by as much as 14 points (37-24) in the third period.

"We had the talent, but we had to find it," Turner stated, joining her coach in expressing thankfulness for the Eagle defensive clamps.

Webster was Kettle Run's leading scorer for the night with 16 points that included four three-pointers.

For Webster and the other Cougars, the final result was disheartening.

"I feel like that game was ours," Webster began. "Our defense got sloppy. Our bad defense caused us to hurt ourselves on offense too. We saw them starting to come back, then we get all frantic," she lamented.

On the other hand, Webster was firm in her belief the two-day tournament left Kettle Run with plenty of positives as well. The team entered the title game, seeking its three win in four games, but the team dropped to 2-6 instead.

The Cougars, however, recorded their two best shooting performances of the season in the tournament's two games. "We just need to keep the momentum," Webster said wishfully.

In the earlier consolation game, Highland, now 5-4, increased a 29-16 third-quarter lead to a 48-22 final count over Fauquier (0-8). Freshman Erica Champion fueled the winners' attack with 12 points, while teammate Michele Micciche added 11 to go with nine points from Colby Newsome and six each for Ashton Eicher and Shelby Thornhill.

Fauquier's Alissa Gibson scored 10 points, Sierra Kroencke four and Victoria Kroencke, Kaylee Lamper, Angel Robinson and Ashtyn Foddrell all had a basket.

In Friday's semifinals at Kettle Run, Fauquier fell to the host Cougars, 49-31 despite a game-high 12 points by Sierra Kroencke, eight by Lsmper and Gibson's seven.

Webster (11), Foudray (10) and Hannah Frye (eight) were Kettle Run's leading scorers.

In the other bracket, Liberty snapped a 25-25 tie after three quarters to win 37-29. Smith posted 10 points for the victors to go with Kaila Blackell's eight. Highland''s Micciche (12) amd Champion (eight) paced the Hawks.

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