By Owen Gotimer
Viva Loudoun College Intern
Ashburn (Dec. 26, 2013) – On a night where turnovers and poor free throw shooting plagued both teams, John Champe High School’s junior center Rachel Malinowski shined in the second half scoring 15 of her 19 points. The Knights secured the victory with three seconds left in regulation as freshmen point guard Blair Thompson went coast to coast for an easy layup as John Champe (5-2) went on to beat host Broad Run (5-2) in a thriller, 54-53, in the opening round of the 1st Annual Maroon & Gold Classic.
“We were trying to give [Malinowski] the ball as much as possible in the first half, and it wasn’t quite working out that well,” Knight head coach Will Patton said. “I challenged her at halftime to be more aggressive. She just became more physical and more dominant. She realized she could score easily.”
Malinowski shot only 3 of 7 from the charity stripe, but hit two free throws in the last minute that helped give John Champe a shot at winning the game. In the 36 second stretch from 1:09 to :33 left in the fourth quarter, the Spartans and Knights combined to shoot 13 free throws.
While both teams struggled from the free throw line, John Champe knocked down 8 second half free throws compared to just 2 in the first.
“I would prefer us two points down than two points ahead,” said Patton of the score at half time as he referenced Bobby Knight. “It showed them that they could stick with this team. If we just clean up a few mistakes we’re good to go. I think being so close to them just gave us confidence to overcome that in the second half.”
The most obvious difference in the second half was the energy level of the Knights as they came out of the locker room at halftime. Malinowski scored on back-to-back possessions as the Knights took the lead early in the second.
“I think we just wanted it more. We had more heart,” Patton said. “We challenged them. We told our team look you guys are a good team, but you got to start believing it. I think they’re starting to see that right now.”
Another difference in the half was Malinowski who finished with 19 points and 10 rebounds after collecting just 4 points and 2 rebounds in the first two quarters.
“My coach said I was having trouble when I was putting the ball on the floor,” Malinowski said. “I took his advice, and I decided not to put the ball on the floor as much and just went straight up.”
Spartan head coach Sean Gundry also noticed John Champe’s recharged second half energy along with the Knight’s preparedness.
“Champe came out and played a heck of a game. Their energy level was through the roof,” Gundry said. “Coach Patton did a great job getting his team ready.”
Gundry and his Spartans had to overcome difficulty throughout the game as one of his leaders on both sides of the court, sophomore forward Mariah Leonard played less than 6 minutes in the first half after getting into early foul trouble. Leonard finished with 11 points and 7 rebounds in less than 16 minutes of playing time.
“This was a great opportunity to find out who else on our team can really help us step up,” Gundry said. “There’s going to be nights when Mariah’s going to be off, nights when we’re not going to be able to do what we normally do. We got to be used to playing with or without her. Of course we’d love to have her on the floor, but that’s basketball.”
The basketball continues tomorrow as Broad Run hosts South County High School in the 3 p.m. consolation game. John Champe is the only Loudoun team in the hunt for a tournament title and will take on Sherando High School in the 7 p.m. semifinal.
It’s a quick turnaround for all teams in the tournament, but Malinowski said she knows exactly what it will take to defeat the Warriors tomorrow night.
“We have to improve on our press break for sure,” Malinowski said. “Communication is key. If we are communicating and we hustle, we can pull it out.”
Owen Gotimer is a graduate of Heritage High School in Leesburg and is currently a sophomore at Syracuse University. Follow Owen on Twitter (@BigO_Gotimer) for up-to-date college signings, scores and more.
John Champe Stats
Blair Thompson 7 points,5 rebounds, 2 steals, 3/6 free throws, 2 assists
Ja’che Malone 7 points, 3 rebounds, 1 steal
Rachel Malinowski 19 points, 10 rebounds, 2 steals, 1 blocked shot, 3/7 free throws
Alexis Smith 8 points, 3 steals, 2/6 free throws, 1 assist
Morgan Lucas 6 points, 5 rebounds, 1 steal, 0/3 free throws
Paige Parkman 7 points, 4 rebounds, 2/2 free throws
Amanda Bielecki 1 steal, 0/1 free throw, 1 assist
Clara Novalis 1 rebound
54 points, 28 rebounds, 22 turnovers, 10 steals, 1 blocked shot, 10/25 free throws, 4 assists
Broad Run Stats
Alexia Johnson 15 points, 8 rebounds, 2 steals, 2/5 free throws, 3 assists
Nicole Braithwaite 4 rebounds, 1 steal, 1 blocked shot
Jacqueline Lynch 7 points, 1/2 free throws
Taylor Tashjian 11 points, 9 rebounds, 2 steals, 3 blocked shots, 0/2 free throws, 1 assist
McKenna Gallagher 2 rebounds
Mariah Leonard 11 points, 7 rebounds, 4 steals, 3/4 free throws
Sofia Ackerman 6 points, 5 rebounds, 2 steals, 2/4 free throws
Julia Nappier 2 points, 1 rebound, 2 blocked shots, 0/2 free throws
Sienna Bargiel 1 point, 1 rebound, 1/2 free throws
53 points, 37 rebounds, 18 turnovers, 11 steals, 6 blocked shots, 9/21 free throws, 4 assists