Scrappy Falcon Girls Fall Short
The O’Neal School girls’ basketball team could not procure its first win of the season in Friday’s home opener against Grace Christian at the Hannah Activities Center Gym.
Although a lack of effort on the part of the homestanding Falcons certainly was not the culprit, as they competed and fought full bore for a win from the opening tip until the final buzzer.
What made the effort even more enticing was that O’Neal was without the services of their top scorer, sophomore small forward Mary Dixon.
“It was an interesting home opener for us, as we came out with our leading scorer, in Mary Dixon, not here,” said Falcon head coach Don Woodfield. “She has scored in double-digits in all our games so far except maybe one. Still without having her, we still found ways to score and keep it close, and that was why I was so proud of my girls’ effort tonight.”
Through one quarter of action, the Crusaders (4-3) held a slim 8-6 lead, but managed to extend their margin to 23-14 by intermission. Grace Christian shooting guard Anna Murr outscored O’Neal alone in the frame by a margin of 9-8. The slippery, speedy Murr made two treys in the period, as her squad outscored the Falcons to the tune of 15-8.
When the action resumed starting the second half, O’Neal tightened up defensively, allowing just four points in the third quarter. Meanwhile, the Falcons used good ball movement and solid offensive rebounding, as five different players scored for O’Neal during the quarter.
“I was really impressed with the job Abby Fuller did for us tonight as a trailer on Murr in our box-in-one,” Woodfield said. “Last time Murr scored 31 on us when we played them a week-and-a-half ago.”
Freshman center Taylor Shelton particularly stood out in the post, as she tallied two blocks, four rebounds and four points. The end result saw the Falcons put 13 points on the board in the frame to tie the game at 27-all with one quarter remaining.
In the final period Grace Christian twice tried to pull away, building leads of 30-27 and 32-29 with multiple possessions of the ball each time. The second attempt proved to be more successful as two front-end makes on one-and-one situations bumped the Crusader edge to 34-29 with 25.9 left to go in the contest.
With the O’Neal Superfans out in full force to support their Falcons — on “Camo (camouflage) Night” at O’Neal — the Falcons mounted a late charge. Shelton pulled down a defensive rebound on a missed free throw and found a streaking Scotti McGowan for a successful lay-in.
The basket by the starting freshman shooting guard made it a one-possession game, with 14.5 of game time remaining. After an O’Neal timeout by head coach Don Woodfield, Murr was sent to the free throw line, where she missed the front end of a one-and-one.
Next, a fast Falcon outlet pass found a speeding McGowan open down the right side of the court. With 2.3 seconds left on the clock, she managed to set her feet and fire-off an open look from behind the arc, but the potential game-tying try had a little too much mustard, as it landed long of the target.
The Crusaders’ Murr led all scorers on the night with 16, including three long balls. Forward Karis Edwards was solid down low for Grace Christian, as she totaled eight rebounds and two blocks, to go with five points and four steals.
Senior Claire Russell led the Falcons in scoring with 10, while McGowan tallied nine points, three assists and two steals. Shelton had a game-high 13 rebounds on the night for O’Neal.
After the game Woodfield had a special message for his team
“I just told them that this was the best game they have played since I have been here now (coaching) for two years, so I am looking forward to getting back out there and moving forward.”
The Falcons return to action Friday at 5:30 p.m. in a home game against Coastal Christian High School.
Grace 8 15 4 7 — 34
O’Neal 6 8 13 4 — 31
Grace Christian: Murr 1 5-10 16, Edwards 2 1-2 5, Ames 1 2-4 5, Iker 2 0-0 4, Winchell 2 0-0 4. Totals 7 8-16 34.
O’Neal: Russell 4 2-2 10, McGowan 3 0-0 9, Shelton 2 1-2 5, Dozier 1 1-2 3, Hall 1 0-0 2, K. Wooddell, 1 0-0 2. Totals 12 4-6 31.
Three-point goals: (GC) 4 (Murr 3, Ames); (ON) 1 (McGowan).
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