Virginia Academy, the VISAA Division III state champions last season, were a pretty good team. They just weren’t a particularly deep team.
Now, the Patriots are. Locked in a see-saw game with Robinson for three quarters, visiting #4 Virginia Academy used a 22-4 fourth quarter to pull away from the #5 Rams and grab the victory, 64-44.
Maybe last year they still edge out Robinson, who has fielded one of the better public school teams around the past couple years. It’s just highly unlikely the Patriots dominate the fourth quarter like they did without the depth they have this year.
That depth was added in the offseason when top-notch players like Elena Bertrand (Highland), Elyse Autrey (Fairfax), Sajol Thornhill (Broad Run), Riley White (Loudoun County), and Chase Dillon (Lightridge) transferred in.
Dillon and center Kerrigan Westbay were unavailable Tuesday night due to injury. Bertrand suffered a injury in the first quarter after making her first two shots and didn’t return. That, and the Rams’ aggressive trapping defense put extra pressure on the Patriots early.
But Virginia Academy didn’t wilt, adjusting to the traps and taking better control of the ball in the second half. Star senior combo guard Joi Williams, who finished with 24 points, was a big part of that. Williams was her usual sensational self, but the new additions definitely made her life easier.
Autrey had a nice all-around game and was instrumental in helping Williams push the ball up the court–especially in the fourth quarter when it was the Rams, not the Patriots, that wore down a little. White had nine points of the bench, including two key fourth quarter treys. Meanwhile, returnees Cai Smith and Sarah Oduro limited Robinson star sophomore forward Georgia Simonsen inside, and also contributed 13 points and 16 boards combined.
“Having that extra depth helps,” said Virginia Academy coach Walter Hamilton. “Adding Elyse and Elena, and when you lose Elena, adding Riley White, who played a huge part in our victory.”
Despite the loss, Robinson could take away a lot of positives from the contest. The Rams’ defense looked dominant at times, and they weren’t at full strength either with All-Patriot District senior forward Caroline Shimp unavailable due to injury. Freshman point guard Madison Coutinho started and showed no fear against the tall and formidable Patriots, grabbing seven rebounds. She looks like a possible future star.
Still, this was Virginia Academy’s night. The Patriots moved up to the VISAA second division this season, so they will likely face stronger competition in their quest for another state title. They welcome challenges like Robinson, and you could see them gain chemistry as the game progressed. In short, VAA answered the bell.
“Thats a good team, that’s a team that won 27 games last year,” said Hamilton. “It was key for us to focus on what we do best. We didn’t look great at times, but we were able to overcome.”
all stats are unofficial
|Threes: G. Simonsen 2-5, Huff 2-8, A.Simonsen 1-2, Coutinho 1-3, Pham 0-2|
|Threes: White 2-3, Williams 2-7, Autrey 0-1|