CULPEPER — Sakira Marr and Amber Fairfax both missed Culpeper County’s girls’ basketball game at Madison County back on Dec. 5.
Marr, a junior, sat on her team’s bench, still in concussion protocol, and watched as her Devilettes struggled against the Mountaineers in a 51-48 loss. Fairfax, a freshman forward, stayed home sick that night.
Both girls played Tuesday night and, along with a strong nucleus of teammates, turned the tables on Madison (3-3), blowing out the Mountaineers, 55-31.
Marr said she had time to think what happened in that game and what she could do to help her team when she returned to action three nights later when the Devilettes (4-4) hosted and beat cross-town rival Eastern View.
That win proved to be the start of a three-game winning streak for Culpeper.
“Sitting there that night, I thought about what I needed to do when I returned to the court,” Marr said. “I knew one person could impact the whole team.”
Culpeper head coach Tony Majors said his team was much-improved on Tuesday.
“[Madison] out-hustled us in the first game,” Majors said, “doing all the little things we take pride in doing well.”
Things like having a rebounding advantage, playing transitional defense, winning the 50-50 balls, making free throws and keeping turnovers to a minimum.
“We didn’t do any of those well then,” Majors added. “We did [Tuesday] night.”
Culpeper opened with an 11-3 first-quarter advantage. The Mountaineers then closed to within a basket, 15-13, midway through the second period before the Devilettes began to pull away.
Marr scored 11 of her game-high 13 points in the first half, including a 3-pointer that began putting some distance between the teams. Culpeper went on an 8-0 run at the end of the second quarter for a 26-13 halftime lead.
The Mountaineers kept the game within reach in the third quarter, thanks mainly to 3-pointers from Makayla Taylor, Makenna Santinga and Hannah Johnson, but still trailed by 10 points, 34-24, heading into the final frame.
Culpeper began its version of a half-court press that Tatyana Loney said her team utilized to “rattle [Madison’s] cage.”
Majors said more succinctly he’s not looking for turnovers when his team presses.
“We do it either to make the opposing team speed up the game or to make the offense get the ball out of the [point guard’s] hands and into the hands of another player,” Majors said. “One that will panic and put up a bad shot so we can get the rebound and transition to the other end.”
It worked, as the Mountaineers committed double-digit turnovers and as many bad shots the remainder of the game.
Madison head coach Dwight Brill said he expected the press but not his team’s collapse from it.
“We practice it every day but didn’t do well with the pressure,” Brill said. “We have to play every game with energy that we didn’t have. This might well be the worst game we’ve played this season.”
Loney finished the game with 12 points and just missed a double-double with eight rebounds. Fairfax grabbed 12 boards and finished with eight points.
Taylor led the Mountaineers with eight points.
Madison returns to action Thursday, hosting rival William Monroe.