The action was intense.
Actually, intense on steroids might be a better descriptor.
The full-throttle pace of play that began at the opening tip never waned, even for a moment.
No dribble or pass or shot or rebound went uncontested.
Bodies flew about the court and ended in more than a few rugby-like scrums.
Rough and tumble was the order of the day.
So when the final horn sounded Friday night and the scoreboard at the McMurtrie-Reynolds Pavilion read Monacan 66, Saint Gertrude 51, the Chiefs could exhale, finally, and savor their well-earned victory on the Rut Court.
The Gators, likewise, could take a deep breath and find solace in a determined effort that enabled them to overcome a 20-6 first-quarter deficit, rally to within 5 points during a second-quarter comeback and, after falling far behind, 8 points three minutes from the end, then continue to play with spirit and grit even as the Chiefs hit their free throws in the final minute to hold them at bay.
“We stayed intense even during their run in the second quarter,” said Monacan coach Larry Starr. “But Saint Gertrude stayed intense the whole time. There was no breathing. It was up and down.
“I expected them to falter a little bit, but they didn’t do that. They stayed with us punch-for-punch.”
During the first-period display of baseline-to-baseline shock and awe, the Chiefs, No. 5 in the Times-Dispatch Top 10, forced 1-for-13 shooting and 10 turnovers, several of which resulted in close-range offensive opportunities.
“It was a matter of getting that jump,” Starr said, “but when we let them back in the second quarter, they believed that they could beat us.”
Erin Woodson (25 points) opened the second period with a layup, and over the next five minutes, the No. 2 Gators connected on 8-of-10 free throws and closed to 26-21 when Woodson drained a 3-pointer from the left wing 2:43 before halftime.
During that eight-minute stretch, they made better shot choices (4-for-9), cut down on turnovers (three), and went into the break trailing 32-24.
In the third period, the Chiefs hit 6-of-10 shots, outrebounded the Gators 10-5, forced nine turnovers, and took a still-not-comfortable 49-38 lead into the fourth.
“The intensity starts at the beginning in the locker room,” said Lilly Hoy, a 5-5 senior guard. “We all make sure we get focused. We come out and know it’s time to take care of business.
“That’s just our game. We know if we want to win, we have to play intense the whole 32 minutes.”
At 5:15 of the final quarter, Saint Gertrude’s Cherese Lampkins hit a turnaround jumper from the paint, drew a foul, and converted the and-1 to pull the Gators to within 10.
After an exchange of buckets, the Gators’ Madelyn Mitchell scored from close range off a Woodson assist to make it 55-47 Monacan at 3:03.
In the final 1:30, with the Gators in a must-foul-to-stop-the-clock-and-hope-they-miss situation, the Chiefs segued from intensity to poise and knocked down 6-of-8 to seal the deal.
“You have to be mentally strong at all times,” said Trinity Jones, the Chiefs’ 5-9 freshman guard who scored 16 points, of her team’s composure from the free throw line at the end. “You can’t let the intensity ruin your focus.”
That said …
“The intensity keeps your adrenaline going,” Jones said with a smile. “Playing with intensity is fun. Just fun.”
Monacan 20 12 17 17 — 66
Saint Gertrude 6 18 14 13 — 51