Fast start pushes William Monroe girls past Orange

It’s all about a fast start for William Monroe girls basketball’s Dajour Strother.


“When Dajour hits her first bucket, it’s go time,” said Monroe coach Jess Stafford. “She stepped up to the plate in a major way. She had a monster game, she played defense, she got rebounds and she made the buckets she should make.”


Behind that performance, the Dragons beat Orange County 60-46 in the squad’s season opener in front of a packed house at home. It helped Strother too that the Dragons’ guards fed the standout forward much better than they have in the past.


“Credit to the guards for recognizing (Strother’s) mismatch and making the proper pass at the proper angle, something we’ve struggled with a little,” Stafford said. “It’s nice to see things you practice come together and work for you.”


Strother poured in 24 points (eight in the first quarter) and pulled down 13 boards for the Dragons. Combined with Sam Brunelle’s typical stat-sheet filling night of 33 points, 16 rebounds, six assists, six blocks and three steals, it was more than enough to push Monroe past the Hornets.


Brunelle was a blistering 4-for-7 from behind the 3-point line on the night while Emma Pickett chipped in six boards for the Dragons.


Orange scratched and clawed its way into staying within striking distance, recovering from a tough start where the Hornets fell into a 24-9 hole to play Monroe even most of the rest of the night. The Hornets figured out how to overcome Monroe’s major matchup advantage with Brunelle and Strother with some help from Erin Ryder, who finished with a team-high 16 points. Laine Harrington chipped in nine for the Hornets. Ryder is embracing an expanded role for Orange.


“I felt like the first half we altered our shot too much, we were scared of their length instead of getting into the body and extending but (Ryder) did a great job,” said Orange coach Dave Rabe. “She hasn’t had to be in this role (lead point guard) before because of Kiki (Kiani Hudgens) but with Kiki graduating she’s got to be the one out front leading things. Overall a great performance.”


Shoring up that slow start will be an important part of the process for Orange going forward as they break in some new faces in new roles.


“They did a good job of taking away our 3-point shots and we’re a 3-point shooting team,” Rabe said. “The second half we did a better job of actually attacking and starting to read whether could kick it or not. We didn’t always play smart but we played hard and that’s all you could ask for.”


The Dragons will square off with Rapphannock on the road Friday night while Orange travels to take on the Madison girls Saturday night.