By Stephen Smoot
After a nearly three-week layoff due to inclement weather, one might expect a little rust from the Pendleton County girls’ squad. Their performance against Pocahontas County, however, showed that the Wildcats remained ready to give a solid performance despite the time off.
The Wildcats took the opening tip. In the opening seconds, Ana Young snagged an offensive rebound and laid the ball in for the team’s first bucket. Shortly afterward, Gabby DePue took a pass from Young and drilled a 15-foot bucket from the foul line extended.
Lizzie Alt then took over the game for the next minute. On two consecutive Warrior possessions, she stole the ball, drove coast to coast, scored layups, and drew fouls, helping her team to build a 9-0 lead only a minute and 50 seconds into the game. Ten seconds later, Avery Townsend found Young down low for another Wildcat layup.
Pendleton County opened the game with a suffocating full court trapping press. Exasperated Pocahontas County players felt pressured into taking the first open shot for the first half of the first quarter. By the end of the quarter, Warrior players started using the passing game to avoid the traps and find open shots, but made baskets still proved elusive.
Scoring closed in the quarter as Young and Jameigh Miller executed a pick and roll off the left wing, leading to a Miller layup that put Pendleton County up 22-5.
The Wildcats continued to make big plays on offense, moving the ball effectively against the Warrior defense. Nataley Hedrick used a Jenna Smith pick on the right wing at the 5:37 mark in the second quarter to find an open Young on the left post, who completed the play with a layup to extend the lead to 26-7.
Midway through the second quarter, Coach Micah Bailey called off the press and pulled the defense back mostly inside the three-point line. This gave the Warriors an opportunity to run their motion offense around the perimeter. They could not, however, make the Wildcats pay for conceding some outside shots, creating the same clock-eating effect as if Pendleton County ran the four corners play.
Pocahontas County continued to fight, tracking down several offensive rebounds in the last two minutes of the half, but for the most part, failing to convert. The Wildcats put them on the line with one second left. Their free throw conversion made the halftime score 34-8.
The second half saw the Wildcats substituting liberally, but continuing to make big plays on both ends of the court. Midway through the quarter, Baylee Beachler wrestled an offensive rebound away from a defender and scored a layup. Less than a minute later, Young found Beachler streaking toward the basket, delivering a perfect pass leading to a layup to put the Wildcats up 44-13.
Townsend ran the offense efficiently from her point guard position, finding Young on a cross court pass for a layup, then taking a steal in for her own score with less than a minute to play. With 30 seconds left, Miller stole the ball, drove to the basket, and tried to find Young with a lob to the opposite post. The lob was errant, but Young tracked it down, then turned around and nailed a three-pointer from the left corner to close scoring in the quarter at 54-18.
Fourth quarter scoring opened with a Smith three-pointer off of a Kiera Heavener assist. Pocahontas County answered on their next possession by banking in a 17-foot shot. With 4:14 left in the game, Madison Arbaugh took a free throw miss, rebounded the ball, and delivered a layup to push the lead to 59-22. Arbaugh then took the ball from Pocahontas County on their next possession.
After a Warrior 17-foot shot with 3:07 left, Heavener responded by burying a left wing three-pointer. Pocahontas County found a player underneath for a layup with 2:13 left. The Wildcats followed that with another score when Julia Mongold dribbled to the post, then dished to Arbaugh who completed the layup despite being somewhat body checked on the shot.
With 1:20 left, Arbaugh scored another layup off of a precise pass by Hedrick. A Heavener steal ended Pocahontas County’s offensive play for the night as Coach Bailey put his team in four corners to run out the clock.
The Wildcats travel to East Hardy tonight. Game starts at 6 p.m. They host Doddridge County beginning at 6:15 Saturday.