WISE — The Central girls looked right at home inside Prior Convocation Center on Saturday night, and rightfully so — the Lady Warriors play their home games at the facility.
Patrick Henry’s girls, on the other hand, appeared to be playing on an alien planet with a decidedly different gravitational pull. It took the Lady Rebels over nine minutes to score their first point and nearly 15 minutes before they hit their first field goal.
By the time Patrick Henry got its bearings, it was way too late. Central jumped out to a 40-7 halftime lead and cruised to a 77-33 victory in the quarterfinals of the VHSL Division 2 basketball tournament.
The Lady Warriors will face Clark County in the semifinals on Friday at 12:15 p.m. inside the Siegel Center in Richmond. While it will be the first trip to the Final Four in the Lady Warriors’ brief history, Central guard Hayley Wyrick believes her team’s comfort in its spacious home on the campus of Virginia-Wise will carry over.
“I think we’re used to playing in that big floor,” said Wyrick, who led all scorers with 27 points. “I think it’s really benefited us playing our home games here this year just because that’s what we knew we would see up the road.”
It may be hard to believe when looking at the final score, but the Lady Warriors actually got off to a slow start offensively. It took them a little more than three minutes to score their first points, and they continued to struggle until knocking down back-to-back 3-pointers late in the period to take a 14-0 lead.
“It’s the same scenario we’ve had the last few games,” Central coach Robin Dotson said. “It takes us a while to get going offensively, but defense locked them down. Then we started hitting some 3s and widening the gap.”
After pitching a shutout in the first quarter, the Lady Warriors got going in the second and outscored the Lady Rebels 26-7. It was a nightmare scenario for Patrick Henry coach Tommy Thomas.
“The girls came out a little bit nervous and we didn’t make the passes we wanted,” Thomas said. “They worked really hard — just not much you can do if the shots aren’t dropping.”
The Lady Rebels suffered another setback near the end of the first half when Sam McClauley left the game with an injury after colliding with Wyrick. Thomas noted that McClauley’s absence forced his team to adjust its game plan, making a comeback bid that much more unlikely.
Jade Miller led with eight points for Patrick Henry, which shot just 28 percent from the floor while committing 24 turnovers.
After Saturday’s game, Thomas was in a unique position to size up the Lady Warriors against Floyd County, which potentially could meet Central in the state title game. Patrick Henry lost to Floyd County last week in the Region C championship.
“They are two completely different style teams,” Thomas said. “Wise is much better in the halfcourt set, but they don’t run as many people at you as Floyd does.
“I’ll tell you we hung with Floyd for a half, but I’ll be honest with you — I had three girls in the locker room at halftime that were just so exhausted. It was like a full practice in 16 minutes. Floyd will give anybody a run.”
Logan Reynolds notched a double-double for Central, scoring 13 points and pulling down 16 rebounds. Laura Gipe had 11 points for the Lady Warriors.
Despite the talk of a potential matchup with Floyd County, Dotson refused to look that far ahead. He said his team has stuck with a one-game-at-a-time approach this season, and it has served the Lady Warriors well.
“We look at everybody as a challenge,” he said. “The farther you go, the tougher it gets. We know that.”