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Mountain View girls finish strong, upset Stafford

In the past 20 days, the Mountain View girls’ basketball team suffered a pair of overtime losses to St. Mary’s Ryken and Forest Park. Those defeats, coupled with a three-point setback at No. 19 Osbourn Park back in December, had the Wildcats doubting whether they were built to take control of close games.

But on Wednesday night against visiting Stafford, Mountain View found itself tied with the Indians after three quarters yet pulled away to earn a 43-38 win and take sole possession of first place in the Commonwealth District.

“We’ve played a number of close games, but we learned [Wednesday night] that we can beat anybody in the district,” Mountain View Coach Ben Sargent said. “We finally closed out a close game.”

Sargent’s team improved to 11-3 overall, 7-0 in district play and will travel to Albemarle on Friday night. The loss dropped Stafford, which will host rival North Stafford on Friday, to 12-2, 9-1. It also sets up a fantastic rematch for next Friday, Jan. 29 -- at Stafford.

After finishing 23-4 in 2008-09, Stafford entered this season as the favorite in the Commonwealth, bolstered by the return of senior guard Marquel Davis and sophomore center Merritt Hempe, a 6-foot-3 inside presence. Davis and Hempe have been spectacular, averaging 14.9 and 12.3 points per game, respectively. A Pitt recruit, Davis has also been a consistent presence on our All-Met Watch list.

Mountain View, meanwhile, finished 17-4 a season ago and was adjusting to the loss of Gwen Newsome, who transferred to No. 17 Stonewall Jackson.

Though they haven’t attracted as much attention as Davis or Hempe, Mountain View has three seniors responsible for its strong play this season: forward Christina Ciminelli, guard Taylar Wells and Alisha Hardley, who are accounting for more than half (33) of the Wildcats’ points-per-game average (55.1).

Sargent also praised the work of junior point guard Amrita Khalsa (7.4 ppg), whose emergence has allowed Wells to succeed at her most comfortable spot on the floor, shooting guard. In addition to getting the team in and out of its offensive sets, Khalsa has also made a team-best 18 three-pointers.

All three seniors were productive against Stafford, with Wells scoring a team-high 14 points. She also drilled a pair of three-pointers. Khalsa had 11 points against the Indians, while Hardley and Ciminelli each had six.

“We have a group that really plays well together,” Sargent said. “We have a good combination of guard play, and everybody who’s on the team has a good bit of experience. It’s going to be a difficult void to fill when they leave.”

By Jason Mackey  |  January 21, 2010; 2:08 PM ET
Categories:  Commonwealth District , Girls' Basketball , Mountain View , Stafford  
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