Braddock's Juliana Park tries in vain to stop a shot by the Spartans' Molly Sharman. Sharman led her team with 14 points.

Sharman, West Springfield stifle rival Braddock, 36-30

Some people don’t like having to face a familiar foe in the early rounds of a regional tournament. West Springfield senior Molly Sharman was absolutely fine with rival Lake Braddock as her team’s first test in the Occoquan Regional Tourney.

“I knew it was going to be a tough game because they’re always tough competition for us, but I really wanted to get back at them for beating us on our senior night,” Sharman said.

Done and done. Friday night at home Sharman delivered 14 points and five assists to lead her team to a 36-30 victory over the Bruins and advance in the tournament.

There was never any mystery as to what kind of game this would be. The two teams, which both value defense and favor a deliberate pace on offense, were bound to play another low-scoring close game. Over the past few years the Spartans and the Bruins have had a few memorable ones, most notably the Spartans’ 24-23 victory over Braddock in last year’s Patriot District Final.

In this one both teams played a 2-3 zone and made it tough for one another to score. Lake Braddock found it difficult to get the ball inside to center Julia Joachim, while Braddock limited the Spartans in the lane. Bruins defensive whiz Liz Otugo made it particularly hard on the home team, creating steals and forcing jump balls.

Defensive ace
West Springfield’s Sydney Buckner has no choice but to foul after Liz Otugo’s steal.

West Springfield still led most of the way thanks in no small part to Sharman. The Mary Washington signee, known mostly for her scoring prowess, displayed an impressive ability to see the court and thread passes through the zone to her teammates.

“I think I’ve just gotten better at seeing the court,” she said. “I wasn’t always a point guard, I grew up being a post.”

The Spartans led by three at the half and after three quarters. Then in the fourth sophomore Lexi White delivered a nice opposite hand lay-up to give her team a 32-24 lead with 3:34 left. At that point one would think the game essentially over, as an eight-point lead in such a low-scoring game seemed insurmountable.

Lexi White
Sophomore guard Lexi White threads through the Braddock defense after a defensive stop.

Then the Bruins made it interesting, mainly with impressive offensive rebounding. Joachim followed a miss by Otugo with a bucket plus the foul. She missed her free throw, but sophomore Juliana Park followed that miss with another offensive rebound and bucket. After a big block on the defensive end by Joachim, Lake Braddock had the ball with 1:39 left down only four.

West Springfield used defense to turn the tables. Sharman and White jumped a Braddock sideline inbounds play and converted on the other end, making it 34-28. Another Joachim offensive rebound and bucket would make it 34-30, but that was the last good look at the basket the Bruins got.

Jump Ball
Braddock’s Juliana Park runs into Sharman and a defensive wall on a second half drive.

Joachim and Park each finished with double-doubles as Braddock concluded its season at 14-10. White added eight points, with Sydney Buckner and Mary Laychak each adding six points for the Spartans. West Springfield (21-3) advances to host this website’s top-ranked Northern Virginia team, Woodbridge, this evening. It will be a difficult task to defeat the Vikings, especially without senior Alyssa Morroni, lost for the season with a recent arm injury. But don’t count out the Spartans, who have accomplished much this year.

“I just know they’ll probably be our toughest competition all year. We just need to go out there and fight and play good defense,” Sharman said. “Like we always do.”

–Chris Jollay

all stats are unofficial

A.BUCKNER 0-0 0-0 0 2 0
S.BUCKNER 3-3 0-0 6 1 1
LAYCHAK 2-7 1-2 6 8 1
SHARMAN 4-11 6-6 14 2 5
WHITE 3-8 2-6 8 3 3
Brown 1-2 0-0 2 1 0
Eadie 0-1 0-0 0 2 0
#52 0-0 0-0 0 1 0
TOTALS 13-32 9-14 36 20 10
Threes: Laychak 1-1, White 0-1
OTUGO 1-9 1-4 3 0 1
BOONE 1-7 0-0 3 0 2
THOMAS 1-4 0-0 2 5 1
PARK 4-11 2-2 10 10 3
JOACHIM 6-11 0-3 12 11 0
Powell 0-2 0-0 0 1 0
TOTALS 13-44 3-9 30 27 7
Threes: Boone 1-4, Otugo 0-1, Thomas 0-2, Park 0-3