Leesburg, Va. — Coming off its third loss of the season to Freedom, the Tuscarora High School girls basketball team knew they would need to bounce back as they entered the VHSL Region 5C playoffs on February 19. The Huskies were set to host a Falls Church team that had won four games in a row, before falling to Edison in a National District semifinal. Now, both teams were looking to bounce back and advance to a VHSL Region 5C semifinal.
“We understood what was facing us,” Tuscarora head coach Michael Newkirk said. “We earned the right to get a region bid, and we were going to make the most of it.”
Ultimately, the Huskies’ speed and offensive ability was enough to push past the Jaguars, 64-38.
Falls Church won the initial tip, and the Jaguars immediately showed speed, running through the Huskies’ defense to score the first basket of the game.
However, the Huskies adjusted almost immediately. During the first quarter, Tuscarora senior guard Rosi Santos led the Huskies on an 18-2 run. The Huskies matched the speed of Falls Church and limited their turnovers during the first quarter, contributing to a 20-4 lead eight minutes in.
“Coming off of the [district]championship loss, we had to regroup,” Santos said. “We really came out to show everyone what we had.”
Tuscarora slowed down tremendously in the second quarter, as they were outscored 13-12 by Falls Church. Led by senior guard Sierra Kennard – who had 7 points in the second quarter – the Jaguars benefited from Tuscarora turnovers and made the most of their foul shots, cutting the lead to 32-17 heading into halftime.
Tuscarora seemed to get their footing back in the third. The Huskies made defensive adjustments coming out of the half and took advantage of their trips to the foul line. Thanks to a complete team effort by Tuscarora, the Huskies led 44-24 going into the fourth.
“We played with good chemistry,” Santos added. “It was a little rocky, but we knew what we needed to do.”
Tuscarora’s offense has been fueled throughout the season by junior guard Isabellah Middleton, but heading into the fourth quarter, Middleton had been quiet, scoring only 10 points through three quarters. However, in the fourth, Middleton was fired up, adding 12 points in the final quarter.
“We were not ending the game as strong as we began,” Newkirk said. “We just have to move forward. Facing Freedom three times this year will have hopefully prepared us, and we are ready to move forward.”
“We are going to put in a lot of game preparation for Edison,” Tuscarora senior guard Shakima Machulski said. “Hopefully we come in with a lot of intensity and win the ball game.”