it was a happy 34th birthday indeed Woodbridge girls’ basketball coach Tamika Dudley.
Not only did her Vikings run their winning streak to 11 straight with a 60-46 convincing road victory against Colonial Forge, which was previously undefeated in Conference 4 play, but they put the icing on the proverbial cake with as pristine a first quarter performance as a coach could want.
While shooting nearly 44 percent from the field in the period (7 for 16), the Vikings forced six turnovers and seven missed shots for the Colonial Forge. Perhaps more significantly, they kept the Eagles from getting any second shots on offense by crashing the boards and physically dominating the paint on both ends of the floor in the first quarter.
Woodbridge (15-4 overall, 3-0 in conference play) passed an average of six times per possession in the first period and the ball movement played dividends as senior Maegen Mikkelsen scored eight of her 15 points and notched three assists on passes to sophomore Hanna Oliver, who drained three-pointers on each while scoring 10 points. The Vikings outscored Colonial Forge (2-1, 12-5) 23-12 in the period.
Interestingly, after missing four of their first six shots in the game, the Vikings looked a little bit impatient, so Dudley called a timeout with Woodbridge leading 4-3. But the early timeout paid dividends as the Vikings went on a 19-9 run the rest of the way. Overall, Woodbridge outscored the Eagles 52-26 following timeouts in the game.
Dudley said Woodbridge came out with a strong focus, especially after the timeout. She said she thinks it had more to do with the magnitude of the game than the occasion.
“I’d like to think it was because of my birthday [that Woodbridge got off to a fast start],” Dudley said with a smile. “But I really think it was just because the girls were really focused on this game.”
After the first quarter, Woodbridge lost a bit of its sizzle, outscoring the Eagles by just a point at 16-15 in the second quarter en route to taking a 39-27 halftime lead. Part of the second quarter problems corresponded with Asia McCants and Paris McBride getting into foul trouble and the Vikings’ giving Mikkelsen a bit of a breather.
Then in the third quarter, a somewhat fatiguing Viking squad that had shot 42 percent from the field in the first half (14-33), made just 2 of 11 shots (on three-pointers by Oliver and McCants) for an 18 percent ledger. In the fourth quarter, however, the Eagles committed six turnovers, moving their total to 22 for the game, and shot just 23.5 percent (4-17) from the field to help Woodbridge pull away.
“For a majority of the time, we only played about six or seven kids, so fatigue was definitely a factor in the second half,” Dudley said. “It’s really hard when you put out so much energy early in the game to stay consistent throughout the game. You’d like to do that, but it’s very hard. We were able to overcome foul trouble because of the play of senior Kelsey Clark, who’s missed quite a bit of time due to injury. She gave us some big minutes.”
The overall effort brought a wide smile to Dudley’s face during the postgame interview, after which all of the players sang a rousing chorus of the traditional Happy Birthday to her before posing for a “team selfie” with a beaming Dudley. The team and several fans then sang the somewhat jazzier version of the song as Dudley basked in the rendition.
Dudley indicated she was most pleased with the Vikings unselfishness and willingness to play good defense throughout and rebound tirelessly. While the entire team played defense well, Oliver, who plays soccer for Woodbridge in the spring, led the effort by forcing a couple of the Eagles’ better players to shoot from the perimeter or make off-balance shots.
Oliver, the reigning Hoops Fest three-point champion, made six overall, and just missed making three more, while scoring a team-high 19 overall.
Meanwhile, McCants played well in the paint despite drawing a couple early fouls. She finished with 16 points, including eight in the second half.
Dudley said Woodbridge’s strong ball movement, especially early in the game, is a testament to a maturity borne out the frustration the team has experienced the past few years.
“I think they’ve matured into that,” Dudley said. “They understand their roles and [are willing to wait] to get the kind of shot we want them to take. They’ve been on the other end [of winning streaks] so I don’t think they are thinking we are better than we are. I keep telling them, ‘We haven’t won anything yet.’”
For Mikkelsen, who has been one of the main players to have experienced the recent lean times at Woodbridge, Tuesday night’s victory meant more than providing just desserts for Dudley.
“This was the game we have wanted to win all season,” Mikkelsen said. “The past two weeks especially, we’ve been working hard to prepare for this game. We brought boys in to practice to [simulate] their guards. We knew this game was important for us because it puts us at the top of our conference. But we also wanted to give [Dudley] a birthday present. To come out with a win is fantastic.”
Despite the fact that Colonial Forge pulled within seven points twice after the first quarter, Mikkelsen said she was not concerned the Vikings would revert to the pattern that had been established in previous years because this team has something those Woodbridge teams have not had much of—maturity.
“[Most of the team has] been together for three seasons now, so we know each other well, how to pick each other up,” Mikkelsen said. “It all boils down to maturity.”
WOODBRIDGE (3-0, 15-4) Oliver 6 1-1 19, Mikkelsen 4 7-8 15, McBride 2 0-0 4, McCants 5 4-6 16, Nelson 1 1-1 3. Totals—19 14-19 60.
COLONIAL FORGE (2-1, 12-5) Shellington 1 0-2 2, Washington 6 8-9 20, Sullivan 2 0-0 4, Gaither 1 0-0 2, Brown 4 1-2 9, Downs 4 1-7 9. Totals 18 10-20 46.
Halftime score—Woodbridge, 39-27. Three-point goals—Woodbridge 8 (Oliver 6, McCants 2), Colonial Forge 0. Fouled out—Brown (CF). Technical fouls—none.