DENDRON — Foul shooting is important in every game, but the importance is magnified in the postseason when games are tighter.
Riverheads had one of its worst performances of the season at the line Friday night, and the result was a 50-44 loss for the Gladiators to the Surry County Cougars in the Region 1B girls basketball tournament championship game.
The Gladiators finished a dreadful 13-of-27 at the line, and that was the difference in the six-point game.
“If we had made half of the ones we missed, we would have won the game,” Riverheads first-year head coach Preston Woods said. “We usually shoot very well at the line. The game was right there for us to win.”
The loss means Riverheads (14-9) has to go back on the road for next Friday’s Class 1 state quarterfinal clash at Rappahannock. Rappahannock won the Region 1A championship Friday night by beating Lancaster.
Surry County (24-4) is no stranger to the state tournament, having lost in the state championship the last two years to Parry McCluer, and the state semifinals in 2017 to the Blues. The Cougars ended Riverheads’ season last year in the state semifinals with a 74-54 victory. If both teams win their quarterfinal matchups, they have meet again in the semifinals, and once again Riverheads will have to go on the road.
Surry County extended its winning streak to 16 straight. All four of its losses came in a row during a three-game holiday tournament in late December and the first game of 2020 against Class 5 Deep Creek.
During the regular season, the Cougars held two opponents scoreless — yes scoreless — three times. They blanked Appomattox Regional Governor’s School 78-0 and 68-0, while also shutting out Windsor 70-0. In the Tri-Rivers District tournament, they almost did it again to Windsor, but gave up two points in a 73-2 rout.
But the Gladiators gave Surry County everything it could handle, leading 22-21 at the break. The Cougars used a strong third quarter to gain a 37-30 advantage going to the final eight minutes.
“We had them at the half, but we had a few turnovers early in the third quarter, and they got a couple quick layups,” Woods said.
“They stalled for most of the fourth quarter,” he said. “We got several stops, but simply couldn’t finish at the other end. We got the deficit to three, but couldn’t buy a free throw or basket.”
The Gladiators were 6-of-11 at the line in the fourth quarter, including a missed one-and-one.
“The girls played hard and we executed our game plan,” Woods said. “We wanted to pack it in on defense and box out, and finish on the other end. Down the stretch, the finishing was missing.
“We worked hard on defense like normal, and we handled their pressure well. We knew they were going to focus on stopping Berkeley (Tyree) inside and pressuring Hannah (Grubb) on the perimeter,” he said.
The Cougars limited Tyree and Grubb to two field goals apiece, and seven points and 10 points, respectively. Savanna Crawford came off the bench to lead the Gladiators with 14 points.
“We will go back to work on Monday, learn from tonight and get ready for Rappahannock,” Woods said.