Bruce McKean
Contributing Writer

Pocahontas County, 71
Webster County, 30

The #2 seed Pocahontas County High School girls basketball team opened West Virginia Class A Region III Section 1 quarter-final play February 19 at PCHS and hosted the #7 seed Webster County Highlanders. All 10 PCHS girls and all nine Lady Highlanders saw action in the game, and 18 of the 19 players scored in the game.

The #9 ranked (AP Poll) PCHS squad entered the post-season with a 14-6 record and completely dominated the Highlanders (1-19) in the first half 55-10 effort.  Sophomore Laila Calhoun was the only player in double digits, and she scored 14 of her game high 21 points in the second quarter.  Sophomores Kira Bircher, with nine points, and Sage McLaughlin and Charity Warder, both with eight points, were the next three game-high scorers. The home team, in a total-team effort, produced 39 rebounds, 29 deflections, 24 assists and 23 steals.  The final score, with lots of bench play by both teams, was 71-30. 

Pocahontas County, 50
Valley (Fayette), 43

PCHS then hosted #3 seed Valley (Fayette), who was sporting a 12-7 record, February 21.  The Greyhounds advanced to the semi-final round at PCHS by beating #6 seed Richwood 41-33 at Smithers in a closer-than-expected quarter-final game.  

Valley was led by junior Hannah Foster, and she would finish with game high scoring honors of 20 points that included hitting nine of 12 foul shots and a season scoring total of 407 points. Forty-three fouls were evenly called in the game.  If the scores were added for the first, second and fourth quarters, the game would have been a 34-34 tie. PCHS won the game by seven points, 50-43, and the third quarter 16-9 effort was the difference in the game. 

Bircher hit a three at the buzzer ending the first quarter that allowed PCHS to take their first lead in the game 7-6.  The second quarter was marked by seven more lead changes and two ties. Bircher again hit a three at the half-time buzzer to put PCHS ahead 18-17. PCHS would hit 8 of 14 fourth quarter free throws to seal the win. 

Bircher led the scoring in the first half with 10 points, and Calhoun was high scorer in the second half with all 14 of her game points after half-time. Bircher tallied 15 points, six deflections and four steals, while Calhoun also grabbed nine rebounds.  Warder also fought for nine rebounds and finished with seven points  Alexa Taylor dished out five assists, grabbed five rebounds and scored six points.  Brianna Hefner tallied five points and seven rebounds. PCHS out-rebounded Valley 38 to 25 and committed nine fewer turnovers, 21-30.

Pocahontas County, 25
Charleston Catholic, 27

#4 seed Charleston Catholic made it to the Section 1 championship game that was held at PCHS February 23, by upsetting #1 seed Midland Trail 42-41 on Trail’s court in the semi-final round. The upset of the top seeded team allowed #2 seed PCHS to host their third post-season game in a row. This was the second year in a row that Catholic had upset Trail. CCHS had advanced to the second round by beating #5 seed Fayetteville in Charleston 42-14 in the quarter-finals.

The Lady Warriors stormed on to the court motivated by a big, loud and supportive fan base to take the first quarter 8-2. PCHS had beaten CCHS 49-35 at PCHS in their only regular season matchup on January 6. This battle soon turned into a defensive contest, but Pocahontas never trailed in the first half that ended in their favor 13-8. The Irish would win the game in the third quarter with 5’5” junior point guard Jordan Keener scoring 10 points to give CCHS the 20-19 lead going into the final frame. Keener had only scored six points in their first meeting this season, and five of those were in the first quarter. The lead would change three times late in the third period and two more times early in the fourth period.

CCHS took their biggest lead, four points, 25-21 at the 4:32 mark.  By the 1:45 mark PCHS had tied the game at 25-25 with two foul shots from Bircher and a basket from Calhoun. Catholic missed one foul shot at the 36.7 mark. With 8.3 seconds left, PCHS missed two foul shots, and Keener grabbed the rebound and weaved her way down the floor and put up a shot from the right side of the foul lane as the buzzer sounded. The Irish faithful exploded, and the Warrior fans were totally shocked. I fully expected the game to go into overtime, but Catholic pulled off another upset, 27-25

Bircher was team-high scorer with seven points, four deflections and two blocks.  alhoun was next with 13 rebounds and six points. Warder also scored six points and added six rebounds, three steals, five deflections and two blocks. Alexa Taylor, who always directs the team well in every game from the point guard position, scored four points.  Sage McLaughlin made two points and dished out three assists. PCHS out-rebounded the smaller team 28 to 19 and committed fewer turnovers 18 -19. CCHS shot better at the foul line, making five of seven, and PCHS made only four of nine. PCHS drops to 16-7 and unranked Catholic improves to 10-13.  Sixteen of the Irish opponents so far this season have been top-10 teams in A and AA, while PCHS played eight top-10 teams in A and AA.

PCHS will travel to the Section 2 winner, #1 seed Summers County (#7 AP Poll), to play in one of the two Region III co-finals that will send both winners to Charleston.