Defensive effort pushes William Monroe girls past Madison

Usually when you hold your opponent without a field goal in the first quarter, you’re well on your way to a victory.


This was the case for the William Monroe girls basketball team, as it didn’t allow Madison a field goal until the 5:54 mark of the second quarter, yet the Dragons led by only eight after some offensive struggles of their own.


Then, as she so often does, do-everything junior forward Sam Brunelle took over.


Brunelle scored the Dragons’ final nine points of the first half, including an old-fashioned three-point play with 18 seconds left and a floating layup at the buzzer, to give her team a 26-11 lead at the break and Monroe cruised after that, winning 46-32 and sweeping the season series with the rival Mountaineers.


Brunelle finished with a game-high 24 points in the victory.


“We’d had a long layoff since our last game, two weeks,” Monroe head coach Jess Stafford said. “It was the last time we played [Madison], so we spent those two weeks honing in offensively, adding a couple different defensive sets. If it’s Madison it’s gonna be a battle, there’s no way around it.”


Madison had closed to 14-9 before Brunelle’s spurt, relying on its defense to keep the Mountaineers in the game. Monroe led 11-2 after one, but Madison kept themselves in it by sinking seven free throws in the period and Makayla Taylor’s fast-break layup gave them their first field goal in that frame. The Mountaineers also held Monroe scoreless for a three-minute span in the period.


Monroe led 38-24 after three before Madison began one final push. A basket by Sophie Adams followed by a three-point play from Taylor brought the deficit back to single digits for the first time in the half, bringing to life a Madison crowd that had largely been out-shouted by the sizable William Monroe contingent opposite them to that point.


“We have an amazing community. It’s incredibly special because they support us so passionately,” Stafford said. “We travel amazingly everywhere we go — parents, supporters, friends, cousins, everyone.”


But Brunelle sank a pair of free throws, then blocked a Madison shot on the other end which led to a Hailey Morris jumper, beginning a nearly four-minute Madison drought which effectively ended the Mountaineers’ chances of a comeback.


“Honestly one of our targets coming in is not allowing field goals,” Stafford said. “Foul trouble made us shift some things around, but that’s our mentality — you don’t score on us, and if you do, we have to make some adjustments.”


Taylor led the Mountaineers with 11 and Morgan McClelland chipped in eight. In addition to Brunelle’s output, Iyanna Carey was the other Greene Dragon in double figures with 10.


Monroe has a quick turnaround, heading to Fluvanna on Friday at 6. Madison travels to East Rockingham next Wednesday.