Ashburn, Va. — It has often been said that “defense wins championships”, and although it wasn’t a championship game, that phrase rang true for the Stone Bridge High School girls basketball team, as they used a strong defensive effort in the second half to overcome an early deficit and defeat Potomac Falls, 52-35, on January 25 in Ashburn.
The Bulldogs had a balanced scoring effort with contributions from ten different players, led by senior forward Avery Moon–12 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists, 4 steals–and junior point guard Lizzie Rubino–11 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 steals.
“I’m really proud of all of them,” Stone Bridge head coach Emily Thompson said. “This is the way we envisioned us to be playing all season.”
Potomac Falls opened up the first quarter with a solid team effort, jumping out to an early 14-6 lead following a 6-6 tie. Junior forwards Cecilia O’Grady and Meagan Njamen dominated in the paint, pulling down a combined 8 rebounds and putting up 10 of the team’s 14 points in the stretch. Stone Bridge finally ended their scoring drought with a couple free throws and a 2-pointer from Rubino to close out the first quarter at 14-10.
Into the second quarter, the Bulldogs slowly chipped away at the lead, but the Panthers always seemed to have a response, as the closest Stone Bridge came was tying the game at 14-14 and again at 15-15. The Panthers began to pull away again as O’Grady found the basket for 2 and freshman guard Emily Powell had a steal that ended in a 3-pointer to go up 20-15. Before the half ended, the Bulldogs got one final basket by sophomore guard Reagan Skorupski to leave the score at 20-17 going into the locker room.
“We had a good halftime talk,” Rubino said. “We are definitely a second half team, so we come with more energy in the second half every game.”
The Bulldogs opened up the scoring in the third quarter with a 3-pointer from freshman guard Carly Sweazie to tie the game at 20-20. From that point on, they took the lead and never looked back, completing a 12-0 scoring run in the frame.
“Defensive intensity is what we were missing. Our defensive intensity picked up a lot in the second half.”
—Stone Bridge head coach Emily Thompson
Stone Bridge made use of a full-court press and forced turnovers, which limited the Panthers to just 3 points in the third quarter. The increased defensive focus meant the Bulldogs kept possession of the ball and had more chances to get to the basket.
“Pressing always gets us more hyped,” Rubino said. “Then the bench gets more hyped when we’re pressing, and it just lifts the energy.”
Moon came alive, scoring half of the team’s points during the 12-0 run. Potomac Falls sophomore guard Brynn Hunter then hit a 3-pointer for the Panther’s only basket in the third quarter. After a couple free throws from Skorupski, Sweazie finished the third quarter the way she started it, hitting another 3-pointer to put the Bulldogs up 34-23.
The teams traded points early in the fourth quarter, and it seemed as though Potomac Falls had new life as junior guard Evalina O’Mara and Hunter each hit threes, but the defensive pressure from the Bulldogs kept the Panthers at arm’s length.
In both the third and fourth quarters, Stone Bridge had 4 steals and forced 8 turnovers. This opened up opportunities for Moon and Rubino, who led the offense in the fourth with 6 points apiece.
“We had to go to the basket,” Thompson said. “We weren’t doing that very well in the first half, and then we started getting it inside. Rubino was getting in the paint, and that’s what we needed.”
Rubino’s and Moon’s offensive contributions, paired with the team’s 78% free throw shooting percentage allowed the Bulldogs to build a comfortable lead and hold it until the end, 52-35.
Stone Bridge (3-2, 10-6) will look to continue their winning streak and avenge an earlier loss when they travel to Woodgrove on January 27. Potomac Falls (2-3, 11-6) will look to get back in the win column when they host Briar Woods the same day.
“Everyone’s pumped up, ready for the next game,” Rubino said. “It’s a three game week, so we’re excited for Friday.”
Bill Bride captured 50+ photos at the game!
Stone Bridge Stats
Potomac Falls Stats