The girls basketball teams at Patrick Henry and Christiansburg are new and improved.
And those two adjectives might not do justice.
The Patriots and Blue Demons — each with a new head coach and a freshman star — put on a show Tuesday night in what could be the first of many River Ridge District showdowns.
When the sneakers stopped squeaking, Patrick Henry overcame a 10-point first-half deficit and left with a 60-57 victory that earned the Patriots sole possession of first place in the River Ridge standings.
“This was a statement game for us,” first-year PH coach Mike Hedrick said. “I’ve been telling these girls for weeks this is our district. This district runs through us.
“That confidence is what allowed us [to win]. The PH teams in the past would have folded.”
PH (9-1, 4-0) trailed 21-11 early in the second quarter and was behind 37-28 in the third period before finally taking the lead at 45-43 when Alexis Conley corralled a loose ball in the lane and scored.
The Patriots went up 56-46 with four minutes to play on a stickback by freshman Savannah Derey, who finished with a team-high 20 points.
However, Christiansburg (6-4, 3-1) closed the deficit to 58-57 on two free throws by its freshman star, Grace Hutson, with 13 seconds left.
Jemoni Carter put PH back up 60-57 with a pair of free throws with 11.3 seconds left, leaving the visitors with one chance to tie.
PH double-teamed Hutson after she crossed halfcourt. Hanna Allen was not expecting Hutson’s pass and the ball bounced off her head for a turnover.
“We instituted something called the ‘Hutson rules,’ very similar to the Jordan rules back [in the NBA],” Hedrick said. “We put in those rules to make sure we could take her out.”
PH won despite shooting just 9 for 40 from the field in the first half and 8 for 22 from the foul line for the game.
Derey led a big effort on the offensive boards en route to her 20 points, while Conley added 11. The Patriots also forced 12 second-half turnovers with their up-tempo style.
“They do a very good job of applying pressure,” Christiansburg coach Joe Hutson said. “They do a really good job on the offensive glass. Getting those second and third shots was huge for them.”
Allen led Christiansburg with 20 points, while Julia Moschella added 16 and Hutson finished with 13.
All 57 points for the Blue Demons came from the starting five.
Get ready for some marquee matchups between these two teams down the road.
“Mike does a great job,” Hutson said. “I’ve got a lot of respect for him. He’s got so much energy and enthusiasm.”
PH’s 9-1 start has included just one true road game.
If the road to the River Ridge title is to go through PH, the Patriots will have win some games away from home.
“We got a lot of home games, and it got our confidence up,” Hedrick said. “I would rather do it this way than be back and forth.”
PH’s nine wins are more than the team had in the last two seasons combined.
“More confidence, more intensity,” returning player Mariah Wilson said.
“We didn’t know it would be this big of a change. We just thought we would be working on getting wins and not actually winning.”