The Brentsville Tigers’ trademark smothering defense again saved their perfect season Wednesday.
After trailing at halftime, the Tigers held Sherando to only eight points in the second half to earn a 37-20 victory at home in Nokesville and stay unbeaten at 7-0.
“Hitting shots was the biggest struggle,” Brentsville girls basketball head coach Eugene Baltimore said. “We had to keep up the defensive intensity and hope that the shots would start falling.”
They did in the second half, helping the Tigers rally from a 12-11 deficit following a sloppy first half that featured seven lead changes.
Brentsville’s defense, meanwhile, allowed fewer than 26 points in a game for the fifth time this winter. Opponents average only 30.3 points per game against the Tigers.
“I tell them that some nights you just aren’t going to have it offensively, but defensively you can always have it,” Baltimore said. “They are buying in on the defensive end.”
Brentsville held the Warriors to only three points in the fourth period, allowing senior Catharine Forst to seal the Tigers’ victory from the free-throw line.
“We struggled a little bit in the first half with penetration in the middle,” Forst said. “At halftime Coach Baltimore told us what we needed to work on, and we are really good at looking at where we struggle and fixing it on the court. We did a great job with communication and closing out.”
Forst did not make a field goal, but she still finished with 10 points on 12 free throw attempts, including 9-for-10 shooting in the fourth quarter.
“There is absolutely nobody I’d rather have getting fouled down the stretch,” Baltimore said. “She is our leader. She has made big plays at the end of games all season.”
So the fourth-quarter pressure didn’t faze Forst.
“It is a little nerve wracking at first,” she said, “but their objective is to foul and my objective is to put the game away for my team.”
Cai Smith also played well offensively in the second half, scoring 11 of her 13 points.
“I think I was just getting in my head during the first half,” Smith said. “I knew I had to pick it up. ... I have to thank my teammates for getting it to me.”
Gabby Garrison added 10 points for Brentsville. She and Smith are only freshmen.
“I have to allow them to make freshman mistakes,” Baltimore said. “That is how they are going to learn. They stick with it and they keep going.
“They don’t let it get them down. I am proud of them so far,” he said. They “boosted us up a little bit to open the second half.”
The Tigers took a quick 14-12 lead in the third quarter when Smith drilled a 3-pointer from the corner. She followed that up with a 3-point play, but the Warriors fought back to tie the score 17-17 when Ashton Clark (nine points) made a 3-pointer. Then Garrison gave Brentsville the lead for good with a 3-pointer.
“They are our big shooters,” Forst said of Smith and Garrison. “I have a lot of confidence in them.”
So Brentsville entered the fourth period with a 24-17 lead.
“We made some big plays down the stretch to get it done,” Baltimore said. “Hopefully those shots will start falling earlier.”
The Class 3 Tigers will aim for that Dec. 27 against Class 6 Forest Park during the Manassas Park Holiday Tournament.
“We have some tough games coming up,” Baltimore said. “We are going to have to play better than we did tonight against Forest Park if we are going to beat them.”