By Stephen Smoot
“May you build a ladder to the stars. And climb on every rung. May you stay forever young.”
On a day when Ana Young publicly confirmed her decision to play basketball at the next level, she delivered the kind of performance that wowed Concord’s coaches. “She came out with some fire and some type of ferocity,” Coach Micah Bailey said in praise of his star guard. Young also displayed the versatility on both ends of the floor that earned praise from Concord coach Tesla Southcutt.
Young repeatedly broke down the Tygarts Valley defense, toying with the adjustments they tried to make. When they played a man to man, she torched each defender on graceful drives to the rim. To stop those drives their coach put them in a 2-3 zone, at which point she remained content to punish that choice with a blizzard of three-point shots.
Tygarts Valley controlled the initial tip, then dribbled the wrong way across the half court line, giving the ball over to the home team. Twenty seconds into the game, Young buried her first three pointer to put the Wildcats up 3-0. Pendleton County never looked back.
Young went on to score 19 in a first quarter that at one point saw the Wildcats up 23-0. She showed her range early and often as well, hitting threes from NBA distance at times.
Her teammates rose to the occasion as well. As the quarter closed, Lizzie Alt evaded a defender with a head fake, took a short dribble, then drained an eight-foot shot to put her team up 30-5 at the end of the quarter.
The Bulldogs brought a height and size advantage and remained effective the entire game in getting high percentage opportunities near the rim. Once they got there, however, they had to contend with the athleticism of the Wildcat post players. Gabby DePue and Baylee Beachler played strong underneath, forcing bad shots and grabbing rebounds on both ends of the court.
“May your hands always be busy. May your feet always be swift. May you have a strong foundation. When the winds of changes shift.”
The Wildcats opened the game with a ferocious full court press, circling each ball handler as a hunter tracks their prey. Young snagged steals at both the 4:55 and 4:46 mark, driving each in for layups at the other end. Even when Coach Bailey pulled his team out of the press in the first quarter, his athletes kept Tygarts Valley from getting on track.
The second quarter progressed much like the first, with relentless defense and lots of scoring. Jameigh Miller forced a steal 30 second into the quarter. Not long after, Young swiped a pass and drove for a layup to put her team up 32-5. Thirty seconds later, she did the same. Later in the quarter, Alt missed a shot, fought for the rebound, and scored a layup on the put back. Shortly thereafter, with 30 seconds left on the clock, Julia Mongold sank a three-pointer to put her team up 52-17 at the half.
As the second half opened, Coach Bailey threw a new wrinkle at the Bulldogs. Young and Beachler executed a textbook pick and roll that ended in a Beachler layup. Young continued to ruthlessly attack the basket in the quarter. At one point, she sliced past two defenders on a fast break and deftly laid the ball in the hoop.
She continued to make plays. With less than two minutes to go in the quarter, she took a dribble toward the basket to shake off a defender, then stepped back to hit yet another three-point shot. Young’s last basket came with 1:07 left. She used a Madison Arbaugh pick to free herself and hit a shot to lift her team’s lead to 70-22.
For the fourth quarter, the Wildcats brought in their future stars. Mongold opened scoring in the quarter with a post move that ended in a hook shot. Miller and Kiera Heavener fought for rebounds as Nataley Hedrick contributed quickness and tenaciousness on defense. Jenna Smith closed scoring with a three-point shot from the right wing.
Coach Bailey explained after the game that his team has continued to improve, learning from both victory and defeat, saying “so far we’re moving in the right direction.
“May your heart always be joyful. May your song always be sung. May you stay forever young.”
High school sports bring stories daily of resilience, endurance, and determination. While the basketball season is still young, this Wildcat squad, led by Young, will continue to create memorable performances as they build on each success while relying on each other.