Lady Warriors punch their ninth ticket to Charleston’s Big Dance

Lady Warriors

Bruce McKean
Contributing Writer
The Pocahontas County High School Lady Warriors are heading back to the girls state basketball tournament in Charles-ton for the ninth time in school history.  Will this be the ticket that finally gets a win at the big dance?
PCHS won 55-43 at home over the Fighting Irish of Clarksburg Notre Dame on Saturday, March 7.  Pocahontas beat the Irish 70-43 last year in regionals. 
PCHS never trailed after the score was tied at 5-5 in the West Virginia Class A Region 2 co-final game played on March 7 at PCHS in front of the season’s biggest crowd of fans.  The Irish lost to Tucker 28-54 in the Section 1 Championship at Elkins to advance to face PCHS in regionals.
Senior Natalie Hartzell, with five points, led the way in the first frame that ended 16-10 PCHS.  PCHS would score another 16 points in the second stanza with senior Bobbie McNabb and junior Melissa Murphy each scoring five points.  Notre Dame would be held to only two points in the second canto, and PCHS led 32-12 at intermission.  PCHS ended the second period with a 14-0 run as the student body erupted into the “It’s all over!” chant.
We are not sure what happened in the NDHS dressing room at half-time, but the Irish came out on a 9-0 run and cut the lead to 11 points, taking the stanza 18-9.  Going into the fourth frame, PCHS led 41-30.
PCHS camped at the foul line in the fourth, hitting eight of 13 foul shots, while four NDHS players hit three of their game-high nine treys.  The game ended 55-43 with the Warriors taking the last quarter 15-14.  Five PCHS players combined for six threes, and the NDHS game strategy was to keep McNabb and Tristin Day from shooting beyond the arc and for them to rarely shoot inside the arc.
PCHS improves to 17-4, and NDHS drops to 12-11.  Pocahontas shot 54, 45, 44 and 50 percent in the four quarters, and out-rebounded the taller team again 32-27. Hartzell grabbed a career high 11 boards followed by Sarah Ryder with seven and McNabb with six.  The team had a season-low three steals and lost the turnover tally 13-8.  For the second year the Irish fouled more, 22 times (nine of 13 foul shots) to only 11 whistles (13 of 22) for the Warriors.
Melissa Murphy was game high scorer with an all-around good game for the second year in a row with 14 points (19 points in 2014); followed by McNabb – 13; Ryder – 11; Day – nine; Hartzell – five; and senior Olivia Knisely – three.  Topping the assists tally was Hartzell – five; McNabb and Melissa Murphy – four each.  McNabb had two blocks, and Ryder had three deflections.
Three juniors led NDHS in scoring:   Francesca Steele and Allie Ridgway – 11 each; and Rachel Rogers – eight.  The only Irish senior, Christina Snodgrass, provided six points.
PCHS first made it to states in a three-year stretch from 2002-04, then in a four-year span from 2009-12 and now from 2014-15.  This was the 14th straight regional championship for the Lady Warriors, and their record improves to 9-5. 
Pocahontas was defeated eight times at states in the quarter-finals in the following years and by the following scores:  2002 – 21-52 vs seven-time state champ Mercer Christian; 2003 – 37-39  vs Wheeling Central; 2004 – 43-46 vs Williamstown; 2009 – 40-47 vs Parkersburg Catholic; 2010 – 39-40 vs Charleston Catholic; 2011 – 41-48 vs Wheeling Central; 2012 – 36-38 vs Trinity; and 2014 – 31-51 vs Tucker.
All four class A quarter-final games will be played on Wednesday, March 11, at the Charleston Civic Center.  #4 seed PCHS will play #5 seed Charleston Catholic for the second time this season. That game will begin at 9 p.m.  The Irish were up 37-36 mid-fourth quarter in their January 17 game at PCHS, and the Irish went on a 6-0 final run to win 43-36.  Melissa Murphy was only able to play part of the first quarter of that game, and she makes a difference in a game.  Catholic won the state championship in 1979 and 2007, was runner-up four times and has made it to the tournament 20-plus times, the most of this year’s field.
Tucker, #3 seed, is making its 11th  straight trip to states out of 19 total and will face #6 seed St. Marys at 9:30 a.m.  Tucker beat Pendleton 64-44 to advance.  Wheeling Central, #2 seed, plays #7 seed Fayetteville at 1 p.m.  St. Joe, #1 seed, meets #8 seed Tug Valley at 5:30 p.m.  There are two Class AAA games played on Wednesday at 11:15 a.m. and 7:15 p.m.  Buckhannon-Upshur, #8 seed,  hits the floor at 7:15 p.m.  Six games are scheduled for Wednesday, Thursday and Friday  – broken up into two three-game sessions each.
The winner of the PCHS/Catholic game will play the winner of the St. Joseph/Tug Valley game in a semi-final game on Friday at 1 p.m.  The victor of the Tucker/St. Marys/ game will square off versus the victor of the Wheeling Central/ Fayetteville contest Friday at 9:30 a.m.  The two semi-final game winners will play for the “A” state championship Saturday at noon. The Class AA and AAA championships follow at 2:30 and 7:15 p.m.
PCHS has won the Spirit Award at least twice in recent years.  A Sportsmanship Award and an eight player all-tournament team will also be selected respectively by the spirit judges and the media.  Win or lose, players and fans will remember this accomplishment for the rest of their lives.
Anyone wanting to help the Lady Warriors’ program with their many regular season expenses, the trip to Charleston, plus summer tournaments can send a check to PCHS made payable to PCHS Girls Basketball, or drop it off at the high school or with Coaches Mike Kane, Mike Murphy or Phil Anderson.

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