Laughter's the best medicine for SC girls
SOUTH CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- If the whole girls basketball gig doesn't work out, perhaps first-year South Charleston girls coach John Testa could run a comedy club with guard Lina Villanueva as his star comedienne.
On Thursday night, his instruction and her sense of humor helped the Black Eagles take a 54-48 home win over Woodrow Wilson.
With Taliah Cashwell standing at the foul line facing a pair of knee-knocking free throws with her team up four points in the final minute, Testa instructed Villanueva to tell a joke.
Villanueva grinned, leaned in and whispered something, and Cashwell smiled and sank both shots, providing the winning margin.
"I'm an intense individual and they'll tell you that, but they want me to be less intense and I want them to be more intense and more focused," Testa said. "T [Cashwell] was on the line and she's standing there nervous and her knees are shaking and I said 'Lina, just tell her a joke.' We sit around the locker room and tell jokes and have a good time and it's a family atmosphere. You've got to break the ice somehow.
"I told her after the game, you've got to tell me that joke later."
Truth be told, Villanueva could probably patent it if it has the same effect on everyone. Heck, Woodrow Wilson coach Bernard Bostick would probably buy it after watching his squad shoot just 9 of 21 from the line.
It was pretty appropriate coming from Villanueva, considering the evening she had.
The sophomore struggled throughout most of the game, making just two of her first 13 shots from the floor before being carried off the floor in the third quarter with a leg injury.
Still, she returned in the fourth and scored eight of the Black Eagles' first 10 points of the period, providing just enough spark to hold a charging Woodrow team at bay.
"We're a young team and even our seniors don't have a lot of experience," Testa said. "I kept telling Lina, 'You're going to the rim, you're getting bumped, they'll call it. Just keep going to the rim and do what you do and have fun with it.'"
It was almost the perfect storm for Woodrow (1-6), which used an extreme size advantage to stay nipping at SC's heels all night.
The Flying Eagles played four girls listed at 5-foot-10 or taller, and SC's only legitimate post player, Aryaunna Mosley, was sitting out her second game after an ejection.
Woodrow's Bre Thompson took advantage, posting a monster double-double of 23 points and 25 rebounds, while three of her teammates had eight or more rebounds, including 10 for Jasha Payne.
But on the flip side, SC's full lineup of guards forced 35 turnovers and hit 6 of 13 shots from 3-point range. Woodrow Wilson made just 1 of 2.
"We've got to do a better job taking care of the ball and being more precise in what we do, and if we do that will be OK," Bostick said. "South Charleston is a good team. They're athletic, they get up and down the floor and I thought we ran with them, we just didn't finish like we should've."
Kavita Francois and Summer Butler each scored eight points for the Flying Eagles.
Alexia Wade scored 12 points and added seven rebounds for SC (6-4) while Cashwell and Alliyah Webb scored nine apiece.
Villanueva chipped in a pair of steals and one heck of a well-timed punch line.
Reach Ryan Pritt at 304-348-7948, email@example.com, or follow him at twitter.com/RPritt.