GOOCHLAND - Steal the ball.
Sprint to the basket.
Score the bucket - or at the very least, draw the foul for the free-throw chances at the line, and then make both shots.
Deep in the fourth quarter, Goochland High School's Gabby Ragone was showing she had mastered that formula for Tuesday's home game versus Amelia. When her team held a slim 2-point lead with less than 3:06 remaining in regulation, the senior got the takeaway and the layup on a fast break. Her play sparked a 7-0 run that cemented the momentum in the Bulldogs' favor in the final stretch.
After Amelia led Goochland by 1 point in the first three quarters, the Bulldogs' fiery showcase in the fourth quarter, paced by Ragone's 15 points in the stanza alone, propelled them to their first victory of the season, 50-40 over the Raiders.
"It's the beginning of the season, a lot of us haven't played together before, so I think we just needed that jumpstart play to just get us in a groove to keep going," Ragone said. "Once we got that, then we played together as a team. It was good."
Ragone double-doubled in Tuesday's game, netting 25 points total and nabbing a whopping 11 steals. She added six rebounds and three assists, and she shot 9 for 11 from the free-throw line.
Last year's James River District Player of the Year set the tone in the fourth quarter when, getting the ball to start, she walked the ball from the sideline to the top of the key and let the ball fly on a shot straight down the middle. It dropped through the net for 3.
As it's still early in the season, Ragone said she's still trying to get into the groove of things, "but as soon as you get familiar with just shooting one of them," she added, "it kind of just falls back into muscle memory."
Amelia afterwards returned to the point, going ahead with the help of two free throws. But Goochland junior Jenika Carter hauled in a defensive rebound, drove the length of the court and sent the ball out to Ragone, who knocked down yet another money shot from behind the arc for 3 to push her team back into the lead.
The Bulldogs never relinquished it from there.
Carter chipped in 8 points and 3 assists, and while they were facing significant height from Amelia, whose rotation featured 6-2 Loren Cox, the Bulldogs rebounded well, with Erla Thorkelsdottir bringing down 10 boards, Emmy Paulin hauling in eight and Rayanna Tibbs grabbing six. Paulin added three steals.
For the guard-heavy Bulldogs going against the taller Raiders, Goochland head coach James Harris spoke to the importance of fundamentals and boxing out.
"It takes five," Harris said. "Everybody has to help out and box out as well."
Ragone also saw that, as soon as Cox would cut into the middle, the outsides of the floor opened up, creating opportunities for the Bulldogs.
Harris observed better ball movement and more made shots from his team in the second half, and the team chemistry, he noted, is getting there. He added that his players had to overcome the hurdle of not practicing the day before.
Goochland's busy week continues with a 7:30 p.m. away game at Fluvanna on Thursday and a 7 p.m. home game versus Maggie Walker Governor's School on Friday.
No matter how this season ends up going, Ragone can say she was able to play on the high school basketball court in her senior year.
"It's so exciting," she said. "I'm so happy that it's still on...a lot of teams have dropped out, but I'm just excited to have a senior season this year."