Botetourt faithful get to watch girls take a 53-45 championship game win over Hopewell

It’s the second state championship for a girls team this school year, and the first basketball championship since back-to-back girls basketball titles in 1995 and 1996. Team members include Miette Veldman, Jenna Alam, Grace Taylor, Lexi Haston, Meredith Wells, Brooklyn Shelton, Kenleigh Gunter, Scottie Cook, Makenzie Collins and Brooke Snyder. Head coach is Chuck Pound and assistant coaches are Mark Driscoll, Renee Favaro and Samantha Wilkins.
Photos by Brian Hoffman

The Lord Botetourt girls dominated the boards and choked off a heralded Hopewell offense to win the Class 3 state basketball championship at the Siegel Center in Richmond Saturday. It was the second state championship won by LB girls in a span of less than four months.

All five LB basketball starters played on the undefeated state volleyball championship team that defeated Warren County in the final in Richmond on November 18. The basketball team didn’t go undefeated, but having played some strong teams during the season contributed to the success of the team that beat the Blue Devils, 53-45, on the campus of VCU Saturday.

“At halftime I told the girls, we’ve been here before and Hopewell hasn’t had many close games,” said LB coach Chuck Pound. “I thought that gave us an edge.”

Botetourt was coming off a 54-51 win over a tough Abingdon team in the state semifinal at Virginia High in Bristol, splitting four games with the Falcons for the season. LB was 1-2 against Blue Ridge District rival William Fleming, a Class 5 team, and that included a three-overtime marathon at Fleming.

“Playing Fleming three times really helped us,” said LB point guard Jenna Alam. “Fleming and Hopewell give you the same kind of pressure and it helped us having faced that before.”

For a while, it looked like the Cavaliers might run away with the championship game. They came out smoking, taking a 9-2 lead after the first quarter. However, the Devils caught up quickly in the second quarter and LB’s lead was just 19-18 at the half.

The third quarter was nearly even, as Botetourt outscored the Devils 14-13 to open a 33-31 advantage with one quarter to go. Brooklyn Shelton then set the tone for the stretch drive when she nailed a deep three-pointer to open the fourth quarter, and LB never trailed again.

“I was shooting the ball well so I thought I might as well try it,” said Shelton. “I had confidence in myself.”

Botetourt’s defense and rebounding took care of the rest. The Cavaliers opened a double-digit lead down the stretch, but Pound wasn’t taking anything for granted until he put his only senior, sub Makenzie Collins, into the game with less than a minute to play.

“We saw how fast they could catch up in the second quarter,” said Pound.

Lord Botetourt fans give their approval as the Lady Cavaliers close out the 2017-18 season with a state championship.

As the final horn sounded the girls rushed the court to celebrate on the VCU hardwood. For the five starters, all underclassmen, it was their second state championship of the school year.

“It’s like, surreal,” said LB center Miette Veldman, who was the state Player of the Year in volleyball and the district Player of the Year in basketball, with more honors sure to follow. “We talked about winning two state championships at the beginning of the season. That was our goal, but we weren’t sure that could actually happen.”

Veldman was a big part of the accomplishment, as she had 12 points and 13 rebounds. Scottie Cook had 12 points and 15 rebounds as Veldman and Cook, with 28 boards between them, out-rebounded the Hopewell team, who had 23 total.

“We had to box out every time,” said Cook. “Every time the ball came off we had to go for it with everything we had.”

Shelton led all scorers with 21 points. Brooklyn was five for 11 from the floor, including three of six on threes, and eight for 10 from the line.

Alam had eight points, as four LB girls scored all 53 points. Jenna had four assists and three steals playing 30 of 32 minutes. Veldman and Shelton did not come out while Cook played 28 minutes, Kenleigh Gunter played 25 and Meredith Wells was the only sub until the final minute, playing 13 minutes.

LB’s defense held a usually high-scoring Hopewell team to just 45 points on 16 for 48 shooting from the floor, which is 33 percent. The Blue Devils were three for 18 on threes. It was just the fifth time all season Hopewell scored fewer than 50 points and three of the previous four were wins. Hopewell finished the season 22-2.

The two teams were relatively even on turnovers, with 18 for LB and 16 for Hopewell, but the rebounding was the difference as Botetourt held a 36-23 edge. The Cavs were also 22 for 30 from the line while Hopewell was just 10 for 13.

The Botetourt girls finished the season with a 24-6 record. Their six losses were to Fleming and Abingdon, twice each, and once each to Brookville and William Byrd. The Cavs also had wins over Fleming, Abingdon and Byrd, leaving Brookville as the only team this season the Cavaliers didn’t beat.

“Our schedule really prepared for the pressure (of the state game),” said Veldman. “We played in a lot of close games this year.”

For Pound, it was his first state championship in 21 years as head girls coach. Botetourt won state championships in 1995 and ’96 under coach David Wheat and went to the state “Final Four” twice prior under Pound, falling in the final in 2005 and the semifinal in 2006.

Lord Botetourt’s only senior, Makenzie Collins (at right) had the honor of reading the sportsmanship message prior to the start of the state championship game.

“This was a good group of girls who played hard all year, and I had great assistant coaches,” said Pound, crediting assistants Mark Driscoll, Renee Favaro and Samantha Wilkins. “The best thing I did was just stay out of their way and let them do their thing.”

The Cavaliers played their final five games on the road. Starting with the regional semifinals they won games in gyms at Magna Vista, Wytheville, Spotswood, Bristol and the Siegel Center in Richmond. According to Mapquest, that’s a total of 1,157 miles traveled, and the Cavaliers were considered underdogs in several of those games, including the final.

“It’s 10 times better when you win if you’re the underdog,” said Shelton. “We were determined to prove everyone wrong. That made it 10 times better.”

Brooklyn Shetlton (24) led the Lady Cavaliers with 21 points in the state championship game.

Next year, that won’t be the case. All five starters return, as well as top subs Wells and Grace Taylor, who was not in uniform for the championship game due to an injury.

“We’ll have a target on our back next year,” said Pound. “After winning the state championship and losing just one senior, I expect it will be a really big target.”