Briar Woods’ Marissa Almonte had a nice first half Monday night, leading her team with seven points as it forged to a double-digit lead over visiting Stone Bridge. But she didn’t score for almost the next 13 minutes, and perhaps not coincidentally the Falcons then found themselves down two with just over three minutes left to go.
Then Almonte got hot. Really hot.
The senior scored eight of her team’s final ten points, getting an assist on the one bucket she didn’t score, as host Briar Woods (2-0, 8-2) finished with a flourish to sink Stone Bridge, 36-29.
“I just knew my team needed a spark of energy–we were all just trying to do whatever we could to get back in the game,” Almonte said.
A 15-2 run by her team in the first half helped to give them the early lead. Almonte was a big part of that as well, but her team’s defensive pressure was key. Briar Woods led 22-10 early in the third quarter and it felt like the Falcons defense was just not going to allow the Bulldogs to score fast enough to rally.
But Stone Bridge (0-2, 3-5) embarked on a 10-0 run soon after, cutting the deficit to two points late in the third. The Bulldogs then played some good defense of their own, holding the Falcons scoreless for almost the first five minutes of the fourth quarter. When Stone Bridge junior center Sarah O’Day was fouled on an offensive rebound and sunk two free throws, her team led 28-26 late.
That seemed to galvanize the Falcons and especially Almonte. She was 0-6 from three-point range to that point, but showed no hesitation in burying a three with just over three minutes left. Then Almonte grabbed a rebound off a Stone Bridge miss and immediately hit teammate Camryn Adkins with a long pass for a bucket. After another Falcons stop her team could have started to play keep away but Almonte would have none of that, burying another three.
Suddenly it was 34-28 Briar Woods. Stone Bridge didn’t get another field goal and Almonte handled the ball for the most part as the Bulldogs fouled. The Falcons didn’t turn the ball over and Almonte drilled two free throws for good measure to assure the win.
“It gets in your head when you miss,” Almonte said of the shots she missed from deep earlier in the game. “But my coach wants me to keep at it. I feel like I can handle the ball under pressure–my teammates trust me and I trust them.”
Her teammates played big roles in the victory. Seniors Megan Caulfield and Hannah Crawford, plus sophomore Abby Crane didn’t score much, but did good work on the boards against Stone Bridge’s solid front line. The Briar Woods’ bench was key in this low-scoring game, out-scoring Stone Bridge 10-2.
O’Day had a double-double for Stone Bridge, while junior wing Taylor Hafer had nine points and six boards. The Bulldogs, who are minus star player and Dayton signee Anna LeMaster for a little while longer (ankle), showed impressive grit to claw their way back into the game.
But it wasn’t enough against Briar Woods, which also should return an integral piece from injury soon (Grace Nathan). It certainly wasn’t enough against Almonte when she got hot.
“We have six seniors and a deep bench,” Almonte told us. “Everybody has a position on the team to help us succeed. This is the season to do it [succeed] and I’m just happy I have the people with me I do on the bench to try.”
all stats are unofficial
|Threes: Almonte 2-8, Crane 0-1, Hoehner 0-1, Adkins 0-2, O’Connor 0-2|
|Threes: Hafer 1-7, Cowden 0-1, Cunningham 0-1, A.Moon 0-1, Fox 0-1, Cassidy 0-2|