Warhill girls ride feisty first half to season-opening win against Grafton

Contact Reporterkyanchulis@dailypress.com

The Warhill High girls basketball team picked up where it left off last season with a 47-30 season-opening win at Grafton on Tuesday night.

The Lions finished atop the Bay Rivers District for the first time last season and return three starters from that squad.

Their experienced lineup helped them jump to a 21-point halftime lead against the Clippers, which helped sustain the Lions as their play devolved in the second half. Warhill coach Bingo Brungot attributed the late-game lag to an early-season lack of conditioning.

“We have a lot of work to do,” Brungot said. “Still, I tell my girls an ugly win is better than a pretty loss, and there were parts of that game I really liked.”

Namely, he appreciated his team’s aggressive play in the first half. The Lions showed they were unafraid to dive to the floor after a loose ball or push the pace up the court.

Warhill scored the first six baskets of the second quarter. On the fourth, junior guard Tyra Fannin and junior Te’Daizhua Jones combined for a steal in the paint on the defensive end, then Jones dashed ahead for a breakaway layup.

The Lions limited the Clippers to one basket in the quarter. Warhill’s zone defense kept Grafton out of the lane and forced the home team into rushed plays and mistakes.

On one such breakdown by the Clippers’ offense, the Lions intercepted an errant pass and found sophomore Taylor Nicholson racing up the court for a breakaway layup that put her team up 27-6 at halftime.

In the second half, the Lions’ energy began to flag, but they still tried to force the ball up the court, which resulted in mistakes of their own.

“We didn’t settle in,” Brungot said. “We didn’t remember what we did in the first half. We tried too hard. But they didn’t drop their heads when they weren’t doing right, and they responded to the coaching, which is always a good sign.”

Warhill’s starting lineup played the majority of the game, led by senior forward Olivia Schulz, who scored a game-high 13 points. Her fellow starters included juniors Jones and Fannin, senior Alyssa Brungot and Taylor McCulloch.

The Lions did rotate substitutes onto the floor, but they usually came in one at a time and played surrounded by four starters.

“We want to put our younger players in situations where they’re going to be successful, and I want to get my starters better conditioning,” Brungot said. “We’re trying to set everyone up for success.”

Warhill is seeking its third consecutive state tournament appearance. The Lions made state quarterfinal runs in each of the last two seasons.

Grafton finished tied for third in the district last season, but the Clippers must fill the hole left by Haley Cunningham, who averaged 19.1 points and 5.1 rebounds for the 2016-17 team.

The Clippers won the tipoff against the Lions but immediately threw the ball away, which provided an ill but accurate omen for their first half.

Yet while Warhill wore down as the game wore on, Grafton started to build up its confidence. The Clippers never threatened the Lions’ lead, but they provided a glimpse of their potential for the season to come.

WARHILL 47, GRAFTON 30

Warhill (1-0): Te’Daizhua Jones 6; Kaylee Giles 2; Karlee Lemon 7; Tyra Fannin 6; Taylor Nicholson 9; Suzannah Armstrong 2; Olivia Schulz 13; Alyssa Brungot 2. Totals 20 5-18 47.

Grafton (0-1): Fernanda Estrada 4; Nijah Green 10; Nyah Chisolm 9; Maya Hasenfang 2; Kelsey Hare 5. Totals 9 11-21 30.

Warhill: 10; 17; 11; 9 - 47

Grafton: 4; 2; 10; 14 - 30

3-point goals: Warhill 2 (Fannin, Lemon); Grafton 1 (Hare).

Yanchulis can be reached by phone at 757-298-5176. Follow her on Twitter @KYanchulis.

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