The Class A #3 seed (19-4) Tucker County Lady Mountain Lions marked their 19th total and 10th straight state tournament appearance in the 2014 state quarter-final game on Thursday vs the Pocahontas County High School Lady Warriors.
The #6 seed (16-7) Lady Warriors were playing for the eighth time in school history.
Tucker won state championships in 1991, 96, 97 and 98. Last year the #4 seed (19-5) Mountain Lions beat #5 (14-9) Williamstown 61-53 in the quarter-finals, and then #1 seed St. Joseph (22-1) handed Tucker a 63-31 defeat in the semi-finals. PCHS sat home last year after Tygarts Valley upset PCHS in their regional final.
Although the first quarter between the top two teams ranked one and two in the PVC was marked by six lead changes and two ties, PCHS started strong and led 13-9 by quarter’s end. Six Lady Warriors shared the scoring including Natalie Hartzell’s three off-the bench, and five players scored for TCHS in the first frame.
Freshman Sarah Ryder opened the second quarter with a jumper to up the PCHS lead to 15-9. After two more lead changes and one more tie, Tucker’s Stephanie Betler hit a three, and Tucker took the lead 19-16 and would never trail again in the game. By the half the score was still close at 25-19 TCHS.
Points classified as in the paint, off turnovers, second chance, fast break and bench were 21-19 PCHS in the first quarter, but in the second period Tucker took all those points 18-0. Pocahontas was making foul shots to
stay in the game.
The third quarter was not pretty as the Mountain Lions took a 16-0 run to start the quarter, and PCHS did not score until Ryder hit two foul shots to make the score 41-21. Tucker took the third 18-3 and again had a 29-0 advantage on the five types of scoring.
By game’s end, TCHS led 26-6 in the paint, 21-6 off turn-overs, 15-8 in second chance, 4-0 fast break and 14-6 in bench points. PCHS shot their foul shots better at 72 to 52 percent accuracy and threes at 20 to 17 percent. TCHS won the 2-pointer shooting contest 31 to 20 percent and Tucker shot twos 58 times in the game to 41 for PCHS.
Although Tristin Day (17.9 points), Bobbie McNabb (11.9) and Melissa Murphy (10.5) all average in double digits, only Ryder did so with 13 points, and she averaged 9.7 points going into the game. Top rebounders were Day, six; McNabb, five; Hartzell, four; and Rose, three. Day had the most assists with two and the most steals with three, while Ryder had two steals. Hartzell and Ryder each had one block.
Tucker had fewer turnovers 12-23, more blocks 10-2 and more assists 11-5. PCHS came closer with their steals 9-12 and rebounds 35-41. Each team was called for 13 fouls.
Graduating from the two teams are Bethany Arbogast and Rose from PCHS, and Mariah Bowley, Bekah Simmons, Savannah Ambrose and all-tourney winner Stephanie Betler who scored 15 points in the game. Simmons had 12 points for Tucker. Ambrose tallied nine rebounds and seven blocks.
St. Mary’s beat Tucker in the semi-finals 55-42. St. Joseph (23-3) easily won their sixth straight crown 83-48 over St. Mary’s (24-2), and that breaks an all-class mark of five, previously set by AA Summers County (2007-11). St. Joe also set all-class states records for threes made and attempted (17 of 46). Griffin Dempsey scored 30 points and hit seven threes. St. Joe graduates six seniors including their four top scorers, and three will play Division I ball in the fall at Notre Dame, UNC Charlotte and Evansville.
The all-tournament Class A team voted on by members of the media were: seniors Demsey, Mychal Johnson and Rachel Lee, of St. Joe; freshman Vida Imani and senior Anna Whelan, of Charleston Catholic; senior Bettler, of Tucker County; sophomore Ashley Hall and senior Kendra Walker. of St. Mary’s.
Tucker County (20-5) received the Sportsmanship Award, and Charleston Catholic won the Spirit Award. Two bus loads of cheering PCHS students arrived late in Charleston due to the early morning snow, but they represented our school and community well. As the students weaved their way to the bottom of the arena with the
game in progress, the fans in attendance gave them a round of applause.
Head Coach Mike Kane and players McNabb and Ryder took questions in a press conference following the game, and all did a great job. Coach Kane explained his view of the game: “When you have 6-1, 5-11, and 5-9 [players] guarding you, it becomes hard to box and put up shots. We had some good shots and we had bad shots. We just couldn’t match their intensity. We played well in the first quarter then got into foul trouble. We were never able to get things back on track after that. It seemed like there was a lid on our basket that wouldn’t let the ball go through. Our kids played hard. I was proud of their effort, and our hope is to get back here next year.”
PCHS finished with a 16-8 record even with the loss of three starters and several key subs from last year’s squad. After being ranked between #4 and #7 in both major polls all season long, the expectations are high for the Lady Warriors to do even better in the 2014-15 season.