By Matthew Yoder
Chincoteague set an imposing tone on defense early, helping to secure a win on the road Monday night against Holly Grove.
Less than two minutes into the game, Holly Grove’s Mackenzie Schaffer spotted up for a jumper, only to be blocked by Caroline Shelley of Chincoteague. The force jarred Schaffer’s shoulder and sent her to the court in agony. The crowd went silent, and the game was delayed more than 30 minutes until paramedics showed to cart Schaffer off.
When the teams returned to action, the game was slow to take shape.
Chincoteague’s offense struggled to find its identity and stalled into timid play with a lot of passing behind the arc. Early on, the Ponies failed to take advantage of their height.
The Eagles’ Kirstyn Hubbs, who was inserted after Schaffer’s injury, opened the scoring with a baseline jump shot, and was followed by teammate Brittany Snyder in similar fashion.
Despite the slow start, the Ponies still managed to grab a 5-4 lead at the end of the first quarter, following a layup from Lexi Marshall on a great outlet pass from Alanna Hall.
The Ponies began to capitalize on better scoring opportunities in the second quarter and applied their size advantage and defense to stretch the game in their favor. Emma Jackson scored on a putback from an offensive rebound. Shelley then aggressively drove to the basket and scored, taking heed of the words of coach Jimmy Bloxom.
“You’re bigger, you’re faster, why not take advantage, if you’re standing still, you’re wrong,” Bloxom said.
The Ponies defensive activity was much more consistent all evening. Alanna Hall disrupted the Eagles’ passing game, stepping into steals, leading to fast break layups and fouls. Hall finished the game with 10 steals. As a team, the Ponies registered 24 steals.
Holly Grove managed to keep the game close at halftime, despite a long scoring drought in the second quarter. Late buckets by Alysa Mackley and Cassidie Bramble helped salvage the quarter for the Eagles, and the game was 14-8 at the half.
Holly Grove inched closer in the third quarter after a pair of jump shots from Hubbs. Bloxom responded to Hubbs’ proficiency by instituting a triangle-and-two approach on defense, eliminating what was becoming the Eagles’ strength in the game.
The Ponies defense operated well, with Jackson emphatically blocking shots and Hall continuing to jam the midcourt.
On offense, Hall made a nice shot cutting through defenders and Brianna Hess scored off a loose ball to give the Ponies a 23-14 lead headed into the final quarter.
Chincoteague stretched the lead early in the fourth quarter, then held on as Holly Grove remained competitive until the final whistle. The Eagles’ roster is largely made up of ninth and 10th graders, and coach Phil Parks was pleased with his team’s effort, particularly after losing one of its best scorers in Schaffer.
“When that happens, you go with what you’ve got, it’s a growing process with a young team but I’m happy with the effort,” said Parks.
Chincoteague’s team defense was just too much for Holly Grove. The Eagles turnover numbers were too much to overcome.
Hall led all scorers with 9 points. Shelley added 7 points, 9 rebounds, and 2 blocks, and Jackson finished with 6 points, 14 rebounds, 6 steals, and 5 blocks.
The Ponies returned to district action the following night, defeating Nandua at home, 37-24. Shelley led the way with 17 points and 14 rebounds. With the win, Chincoteague moved to 3-1 in league play and 5-2 overall. Its next game is January 10 at Middlesex.