By Stephen Smoot
Besides the season opening win at Union, Pendleton County’s girls have traveled far and wide, competing against much larger schools and strong competition to build experience for their young team.
Tough losses against Tucker County, Musselman, Hampshire, and Buckhannon-Upshur, however, have taught lessons quickly. The rising Wildcats took on undefeated Moorefield Friday night in a regional rivalry clash that showed how far Pendleton County has come with a young roster in only a few weeks.
The Wildcats took the opening tip with Julia Mongold scoring the first basket only 30 seconds into the game. Two Moorefield free throws tied the game early, then they took the lead on a 10-foot shot.
Avery Townsend then took the ball coast to coast, scoring a layup to tie the game at four.
Townsend showed that she was ready to step into a team leading role throughout the game. She made big plays on both defense and offense to keep pace with the Yellow Jackets, who had wins over Petersburg and Pocahontas County already this season.
Early on, the teams stayed close. At the 5:36 mark Jameigh Miller, who also showed her playmaking ability against Moorefield, found Susan Vincell open underneath for a layup to tie the game at six.
Gabby DePue followed Vincell with an eight-foot basket to give her team the lead back at 8 to 6.
Moorefield used their defense to key a short run to give themselves a 12 to 8 lead, but then Townsend hit her first of many three-point shots to pull within one. Toward the end of the quarter, Townsend took the ball from Moorefield and scored at the other end for a 15 to 14 lead.
The second quarter started much as the first ended. Miller swiped the ball from Moorefield, drove the ball, and laid it in for a 17 to 14 lead. The Yellow Jackets briefly retook the lead, until Townsend took it back with a steal and a coast-to-coast layup to give her team a 19 to 18 advantage.
Later on, with 4:08 left in the first half, Jenna Smith found Mongold underneath for a layup.
Moorefield then went on an eight to nothing run over the next two minutes, but a Townsend three and a Miller free throw pulled the Wildcats back within four at the half.
The rough early road had an effect on Pendleton County. The team played at a much faster pace at Moorefield than in the opening win against Union. Team defense showed more aggressiveness and confidence and Donnie Kopp has seen key players emerging as leaders and playmakers.
Pendleton County started the second half with a defensive statement as DePue and Miller both had steals in the opening minute of play. With just under seven minutes left, Miller took the ball in the corner, drove around her defender, and floated a six-footer to pull within two.
Miller next tied up a Moorefield player to get the ball back and 30 second later buried a three-pointer to give her team back the lead at 30 to 29. Smith followed that with a defensive play at 4:26, speeding down the court to spoil a Moorefield fast break. After the Yellow Jackets briefly reclaimed the lead, Miller once again drove to the middle and made a 15-foot pull up jumper near the foul line.
The last three minutes of the third quarter saw Townsend hitting three three-pointers, helping to end the stanza with a 40 to 35 advantage for the visitors.
Moorefield rallied at the beginning of the fourth, scoring six unanswered in the first three minutes of the quarter. The Yellow Jackets then fouled Miller, who hit two free throws. Townsend scored a layup off yet another steal and suddenly, Pendleton County retook the lead with 3:20 left, which she followed with another floor length drive and score with 2:02 left.
The Yellow Jackets called time out with 1:59 left, down 46 to 43. They missed two free throws, but hit a three to tie the game with 52 seconds left. The Wildcats committed a foul with 11 seconds left, allowing Moorefield to eke out a one-point lead. A whistle gave Pendleton County the ball with .8 seconds left.
Miller performed the quick catch and shoot, but it went long, giving Moorefield a one point victory, 47-46, but leaving the Wildcats still determined, still hungry, and with a strong sense of who they are and what they can do.
Townsend had 26 points in the effort, with Miller contributing 12. Mongold had four and the inside duo of DePue and Vincell each had two.
The Wildcats are scheduled to play Friday and Saturday in the Tip Off Tourney at Petersburg. They travel to East Hardy on Tuesday and host Tygarts Valley on Dec. 21.