Pack falls short against Farmville Central

Published 10:20 pm Friday, January 30, 2015

DAVID CUCCHIARA | DAILY NEWS FORCE IN THE PAINT: Erica Hopkins blocks Farmville Central’s Kayla Barratt. Hopkins finished with 10 points and seven rebounds.

FORCE IN THE PAINT: Erica Hopkins blocks Farmville Central’s Kayla Barratt. Hopkins finished with 10 points and seven rebounds.

For first-year Pam Pack head coach Jon Scharpenberg, growth and devotion to a system trumps whatever number may happen to appear in the loss column at the end of the day. On Friday, against Farmville Central and Qyineshe Pettway, one of the Eastern Plains Conference’s top talents, the Washington girls’ basketball team battled to the buzzer, but fell short, 54-50.

Scharpenberg tasked forward Niya Whitley with covering Pettway, a tough assignment for a player in the process of adapting to a starting role. Despite early foul trouble, which limited her time in the second quarter, Whitley held Pettway to just seven points, one of her lowest outputs this season. In that area, Washington had won the battle, but after a handful of missed layups with less than two minutes remaining, the Jaguars eventually won the war.

“For us, that’s the first time we’ve played against a star and actually shut her down, so that’s growth, whether that turns into wins or not, we’ll see,” Scharpenberg said. “I’m excited about this team because they’re responding to coaching. The older kids are helping the younger kids.”

Unfortunately for Washington, Tee Pettway limited the effectiveness of center Abby Walker, Washington’s go-to threat on offense, holding her to just 10 points and seven rebounds, negating Qyineshe Pettway’s lack of production.

The stars for each team had off nights, but it was a handful of sloppy passes and poor decision making in the half court that proved to be the difference down the stretch.

“There’s times where we show flashes where I think they’re listening,” Scharpenberg said. “Then, there are times where I go, ‘Why?’ They’re frustrated with that too, but they’ll get it if they stick with it. Our big thing is to make sure they’re committed.”

In the first quarter, Washington operated the offense to Scharpenberg’s liking — smart passing, efficient cuts and effective offensive rebounding that resulted in second chance opportunities. Whitley, exclusively, came out strong, working her way to the line and even hitting a three in transition. Overall, Washington seemed to apply a similar game plan as it did on Tuesday against North Pitt. Nothing was rushed, the backcourt let the plays develop and steals usually turned into prime opportunities at the other end.

With a 14-9 lead, Washington began to miss open looks and at the same time, Farmville Central finally got into a rhythm, as Whitley was benched with three fouls. Jada Woolard kept pace, coming through with steals and going coast-to-coast on a few instances, though Washington led by just one heading into the break.

Within the first minute of the second half, Washington saw its lead fizzle into a significant deficit. Farmville came out on a 6-0 run and virtually shut down Washington’s frontcourt, forcing guards Timia Ebron and Eva Mackey to jack up shots from the perimeter and mid-range. In total, Washington was held to a crippling five points in the third quarter and trailed 36-28.

Both teams laid it all on the line in the final eight minutes. The Pam Pack cut the lead to one with 5:22 remaining in the ballgame and later, on a couple of clutch offensive rebounds from Erica Hopkins, Washington had tied it at 44 with 2:47 left.

“I have a young team and we’re getting battle tested right now,” Scharpenberg said. “Hats off to Farmville. It took a lot of energy to get that to a one-point lead. We need to sustain one or two minutes longer, but it seemed to me like an enjoyable game to be at. It’s the style we want to play.”

Through the final two minutes, Farmville Central’s Kayla Barrett and Tee Pettway hit open looks that ended up being the difference.

Walker and Hopkins both finished with 10 points and seven rebounds apiece, while Barrett led her team with 17 points.

With the loss, Washington drops to 7-8 (1-5 EPC) and will seek its second conference win with it takes on Southwest Edgecombe in Pinetops on Tuesday.