By Stephen Smoot
Teams that expect to go far in the postseason always have games that they can point at as a measure. These types of games make statements to future opponents and the team itself that they will be a formidable out for any team that meets them in a playoff scenario.
Pendleton County’s girls’ team made just such a statement last Friday at Moorefield.
Though bringing a .500 record into the game, Moorefield brought athleticism and confidence into the game. They moved the ball and rebounded well against the Wildcats, but also lacked the senior leadership and experience enjoyed by Pendleton County.
Moorefield controlled the opening tip and surged forward to take an early lead. In the first 1:30 in the game, they drove in for an easy layup, hit a 17-foot shot, then scored on another short shot to take an early 6-0 lead.
Then Ana Young took their dreams away.
Young’s game brings an even balance between balletlike grace and the occasional vulgar display of power. At the 6:20 mark, she caught a pass, took two dribbles to evade a defender, then buried a three. After a subsequent Moorefield turnover, she again hit a three-pointer from almost Jerry West distance. Shortly after, she blocked a layup, then on Moorefield’s next possession disrupted their offense again by tying the ballhandler up.
Avery Townsend’s furious defense and aggressive offense also halted the Yellow Jackets in the first quarter. With almost four minutes gone in the quarter, she seized an offensive rebound and converted the opportunity into a three-point shot to help Pendleton County take a lead it would hold the rest of the game.
Young continued to attack the opposing squad. At the 3:31 mark, she used a solid Gabby DePue pick to free herself for yet another three-point basket to extend the lead to 12-8. Not long after, Townsend used another offensive rebound to position herself for a deep three-point shot. DePue ended scoring in the quarter with a last second turnaround post shot to give her team a 20-12 lead.
The second quarter saw Baylee Beachler erupt. She has emerged as a tough and gritty force on defense and in rebounding. She took an offensive rebound back to the hoop for a score to earn the Wildcats’ first bucket of the second quarter. At the 5:33 point, she stole the ball at halfcourt and drove into the lane, drawing a foul as she tried to shoot. Beachler converted both free throws to give the Wildcats a commanding 27-12 lead.
Young then showed some flair in setting up her team. At the 4:50 mark, she drove to the basket to pull the defense toward her, then flipped a nifty behind the back pass to Natalie Hedrick who converted with a six-foot shot. Scoring in the first half for Pendleton County closed with Lizzie Alt driving for a layup with 17 seconds left. A Moorefield free throw with 6.4 seconds left set the halftime score at 36-20.
Though the game looked within reach for Moorefield at the half, the aggressive defense of Pendleton County restricted Yellow Jacket scoring opportunities. Plays from Townsend, Jameigh Miller, and others prevented Moorefield from being able to pull back into the game.
The first four minutes of the third quarter saw almost no scoring as the defenses of both teams took over. By almost the five-minute mark, the score was 38-21. It was Moorefield, however, who cracked first.
At 5:07, Beachler opened the floodgates with a three with an assist from Townsend. Young then blocked a Moorefield shot and followed it with a step back three of her own. In the last five minutes of the quarter, Pendleton County went on a 16-8 run capped with a Young 23-foot buzzer beater to end the quarter with a score of 54-29.
The storm of scoring continued into the fourth. Thirty seconds into the quarter, Jenna Smith took a Townsend pass and buried a three-pointer. Later, Smith executed a Eurostep move to evade a defender, make a layup, and push the lead to 62-36. With 1:10 to go, Hedrick took the ball coast to coast, laying in the ball.
Scoring in the game closed with Julia Mongold hitting two free throws to make the final score 71-42.
The Wildcats battled the East Hardy Cougars Tuesday. They host Union tonight and Elkins on Friday. Game time is 6:30 p.m.
MaxPreps has the Lady Wildcats listed in fifth place in the Class A rankings.