FALLING ROCK -- With five freshman on a nine-player roster, Tuesday night’s season opener against defending Cardinal Conference champion Chapmanville figured to be a bit of a trial by fire for host Herbert Hoover’s girls basketball team.
The flames that ultimately burned the Huskies came off the hand of Tigers senior guard Ali Williamson.
Williamson knocked down six of her eight 3-pointers in the second half en route to a game-high 24 points as Chapmanville pulled away from a pesky Huskies squad for a 58-45 win on Tuesday night at Elkview Middle School.
For the better part of three quarters, the Huskies hung tough but ultimately a stark rebounding deficiency and the inability to close out on Williamson proved to be the difference.
“It’s hard to believe she missed her whole freshman and sophomore years with injuries,” Chapmanville coach Johnny Williamson said. “It seemed like last year, it took all year for her to turn into the player she can be.”
Williamson hit 8 of 16 shots from beyond the arc and scored 18 crucial second-half points as the Tigers shook off some rust and broke in some new pieces as the game went on.
Point guard Graci Brumfield and post player Aly Farmer each transferred in from Lincoln County in the offseason and both started and had their moments. Brumfield finished with a game-high nine assists with Farmer spearheading an assault on the glass to finish with 14 points and 14 rebounds. In total, Chapmanville outrebounded the Huskies 38-26.
“When you lose five seniors and you only have 10 players, you need that,” Johnny Williamson said.
Over the past three seasons, Hoover has gone from two, to six, to 10 wins a year ago and there were signs of even further improvement on Tuesday.
Chapmanville jumped ahead 6-0 and never trailed, but for most of the game couldn’t pull away either. The Huskies used a 12-5 run to close the second quarter and trailed just 25-23 at halftime. A 7-2 run midway through the third quarter left Hoover trailing 34-30 but a pair of Williamson 3s sandwiched around a bucket for Farmer turned the tide for good and the Huskies could close no closer than eight the rest of the way.
Senior Allison Dunbar, a Concord commit, scored 21 points to lead the Huskies, which is right on her average from a year ago. The difference is, the Huskies’ role players from a year ago looked more comfortable and those ninth graders flashed potential as well. That was especially true of point guard Taylor Ray, who scored all nine of her points in the second half, as well as Regan Geary, who scored seven off the bench.
“We did a lot of good things for the first game,” Hoover coach John Vencill said. “They play well together. The first time I’ve had a good core of everybody wanting the same thing. We work hard, we’re aggressive with the basketball.”
Dunbar will likely walk a thin line all season, balancing distribution duties as well as attacking when needed. At times on Tuesday, especially early, it was a case of her being a little too unselfish. She finished with just 11 field goal attempts, making seven of them, and pulled down a team-best 10 rebounds for a double-double.
But despite the development of her supporting cast, the Huskies will likely go as far as Dunbar carries them.
“She has built us with a few people here and there around her — she has taken me from 2-21 to 10-13 and it’s going to be well more than 10 this year,” Vencill said. “She’s got to be that spark that gets us going.
“In no negative way, she has to know she’s option one. That’s a positive for everyone else around her. If the other team knows she’s option one, now we have four other options available. But she has to take her shots.”
Brumfield added five steals for Chapmanville with Abby Myers scoring nine points off the bench for the Tigers.