Coming into the Daily Progress Holiday Hoops Classic, one of the biggest storylines on the girls side was whether William Monroe, a 3A school led by top junior recruit Sam Brunelle, could hold its own against some schools from larger classifications and others that it doesn’t get to face very often.
If the past three games were a test, the Dragons passed with flying colors, including a defensive start Friday night that was exactly what Monroe was looking for.
Brunelle scored 35 points, grabbed 19 rebounds and the Dragons scored the first 18 points of the game en route to a 59-23 victory over Albemarle in the title game. Monroe had previously defeated 5A Brooke Point in the first round and got the better of co-host Western Albemarle, a 3A school, in the semis.
Brunelle, who was named tournament MVP, scored Monroe’s final 18 points of the first half en route to a 32-8 halftime lead and the Greene Dragons’ stifling defense forced the Patriots into more turnovers than field goals in the first two frames. She also went a perfect 7-for-7 from the foul line.
“Kids came out executing,” Monroe coach Jess Stafford said. “Defense was the story. Sam had 35, but when you can hold a varsity team to eight points in one half, you’re playing solid defense.”
Albemarle, coming off victories over Harrisonburg and Charlottesville, was finally able to generate some offensive chances after halfitme. Standout Makinna Winterton, held scoreless in the first half, made a free throw and then a layup and then Quinn Graves scored three straight buckets to trim the lead to 37-17 at the 3:50 mark of the third.
“The girls had points where they thought they played well as a team, and they had points where someone was trying to do it all,” Albemarle coach Rachel Proudfoot said.
However, that was as close as Albemarle would get as Brunelle sandwiched a pair of buckets around one by Winterton, then opened the fourth quarter with an old-fashioned three-point play to slam the door on any hopes of a Patriot comeback.
“I’ve been dealing with double and triple teams for a while now, you just have to work through them,” Brunelle said. “I have so much confidence in my game and so much confidence in my teammates to make things happen when I can’t.”
Hailey Morris added 17 for the Dragons, including all three of her team’s three-pointers. Albemarle, which was led by Graves’ six points, was held without a trey all night and shot 5-for-10 from the line.
“We watched [Albemarle] play last night and they were shooting the lights out,” Stafford said. “So we go home, we’re hashing out the game plan, and we figured this was going to be one of those games where you have to dig in defensively.”
Both teams return to action after the new year. Monroe will host Riverbend on Jan. 2, while Albemarle meets Orange in a home district clash on Jan. 3.