MADISON — Teams that play the Winthrop girls basketball team are starting to learn a lesson.

It’s not the first half where the Ramblers beat you. It’s the second.

Wednesday night provided another example, as Winthrop used a big third quarter to turn a one-point halftime lead into what became a runaway 52-40 win over Madison in a showdown of two Mountain Valley Conference contenders.

“I think our depth certainly helps us,” said Ramblers coach Joe Burnham, whose team improved to 4-0, while Madison fell to 3-2. “We rotate very freely with eight girls at a very fast pace. At first, teams can keep up with us and make us execute our offense, but tired legs in the third and fourth quarter for other teams sometimes works in our favor.”

Case in point, high scorer Aaliyah WilsonFalcone, the team’s pace-setter in transition, scored 12 of her 21 points after halftime, and eight in the third quarter as Winthrop turned a slim 23-22 lead into a 43-30 advantage.

“I definitely think we’re more of a second-half team,” she said. “We have high intensity, but we keep it the whole game. When other teams tire out, we keep pushing through, we keep prevailing.”


Natalie Frost added 11 points and Lydia Rice added seven for the Ramblers, but Winthrop got contributions on both offense and defense from each of the players Burnham put onto the floor. With Madison Forgue (eight rebounds), one of the team’s top nightly scorers, and a championship-caliber sprinter in Jillian Schmelzer coming off the bench, teams that are starting to feel worn down quickly start to show it.

“It’s not often that first sub off the bench, your team gets faster,” Burnham said.

Madison coach Al Veneziano acknowledged that that speed and energy made a difference as Winthrop pulled away.

“Winthrop’s very quick, obviously. You’ve got to execute when you have a team like Winthrop that doesn’t give you a whole lot,” said Veneziano, whose team got 15 points from Emily Edgerly, nine from Lauria LeBlanc and seven from Katie Worthen. “They take a lot from you. You have to execute. And if you give them any glimmer of hope, they’re going to grab it. And I thought they did that late second quarter to the mid-third quarter.”

The Bulldogs were going back and forth with the Ramblers until Winthrop ramped up the intensity after halftime. Frost had a basket and Kena Souza knocked down a jumper on the first possession, putting the Ramblers up 27-22. Soon after, WilsonFalcone knocked down a pair of free throws after a hard fall, and a Maddie Perkins layup made it an 8-0 run and put Winthrop ahead 31-22.

Meanwhile, Winthrop’s defense was pestering Madison ballhandlers into turnovers and sealing off the cuts to the basket that the Bulldogs utilized in the first half. Madison went the first 4:18 of the third quarter without a point, a run that ended with an Edgerly three-point play.


That made it only 31-25, but WilsonFalcone scored six points during a 12-5 run that restored the cushion on the scoreboard.

“We’re playing really good. We play always at that high intensity,” said Frost, who added seven rebounds. “This was a great team that we played against, they’re good competitors, but we made our shots and finished at the rim.”

They did it in a variety of ways. While Winthrop’s ability to turn steals into fastbreak points paid dividends in the second half, the Ramblers leaned more heavily on ball movement a patient half-court offense in the first.

“I thought in the first quarter, we did a really nice job moving the ball around, getting some good layups,” Burnham said. “I was very happy with our offensive effort tonight.”

At the same time, Veneziano was in good spirits after the game. His team had trouble with Winthrop’s pace, but the Bulldogs were great on the boards (13 rebounds from Abi Spaulding, seven apiece from Edgerly and Brooke McKenney), and Veneziano knew there was plenty Madison could take from the result.

“It’s a very good test early,” he said. “You want to play the best teams all the time, they’re a team that’s going to win games, and I thought we were right there for most of it with them.”

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