By Stephen Smoot
A week ago, the Pendleton County Lady Wildcats were enjoying a long winning streak. Then came an emotional close loss versus Tucker County, then a setback on senior night against a powerful Petersburg squad. Only two days later, the Pendleton County hosted rival Moorefield in what old school coaches call a “gut check” game. In essence, in these games teams show themselves and others what they have when forced to dig deep for a great performance.
Pendleton County more than came through last Saturday. The Yellow Jackets found themselves swarmed by a pack of angry Wildcats.
Moorefield controlled the tipoff and scored first, followed quickly by a Baylee Beachler layup to tie the game. The Wildcats quickly surged ahead and never lost the lead again when Avery Townsend took a pass by Ana Young and buried a three-point shot to give her squad a 5-4 advantage. At the five-minute mark, a Young assist once again powered a Townsend three-point shot.
On a team loaded with talent, Young and Townsend have emerged as the straws that stir the drink. They pose dangerous threats to score or steal and have been the catalysts of many scoring explosions. It was fitting that each player brought out their best against their biggest rival for the last game of the season.
Even more important, over the second half of the season, they have both worked hard to spread opportunities to teammates. The Moorefield game saw more points off of assists, as when Lizzie Alt found Beachler for a layup at the 3:42 mark, then later tossed a pass to Young that resulted in a three-point basket that extended the lead to 16-5.
Moorefield never got their legs under themselves in the game, shooting poorly much of the afternoon. Wildcat pressure on ball handlers caused numerous steals that led to multiple fast break layups and scoring possessions. Gabby DePue and Young teamed up on a steal that led to a Young layup with 35 seconds left.
The quarter ended with a play that Wildcat faithful will miss next year – Young stepping back to 20 feet to make a three-point goal with only a second left. The score at the end of the first was 28-5.
Moorefield is always a dangerous team and Pendleton County continued to attack. The Yellow Jackets opened the second quarter with a three-point goal. Townsend, however, found Nataley Hedrick for a pass, leading to an easy layup. Beachler then took a Jameigh Miller pass for a close shot as well, giving the Wildcats a 24-point lead with only a minute and a half gone in the second.
Later in the quarter, Hedrick and Young combined for a steal that led to a DePue layup at the four-minute mark. The diminutive Hedrick’s hustle makes her inch for inch the best rebounder on the court while also a constant threat to steal.
A Jenna Smith three pointer with 2:11 left and a 17-foot shot by Moorefield set the halftime score at 41-17.
Pendleton County has enjoyed big plays from the starting five all year. Outside of Young, many of the starters and first players off the bench are young, but highly experienced and disciplined. Players like Alt, Townsend, DePue, and Beachler often have to compete with older players with more varsity experience, but generally perform as well or better in the contests.
Coach Micah Bailey also deserves credit for the reserves’ development into strong contributors. Miller, only a freshman, has grown into a gutsy defender and rebounder with an improving shot. Sophomore Smith has delivered timely deep shots while also using her speed to play solid defense. The evolution of the players and the team should make the Wildcats formidable in the postseason.
The third quarter saw Moorefield continuing to find no answers against a motivated Pendleton County squad. Wildcat players attacked the basket in the third, drawing fouls and scoring at the free throw line. Alt hit one of two free throws after driving the lane and getting fouled, putting her team up 48-21.
Young then took over the game in the waning minutes of the quarter. With 1:10 left in the quarter, she drove the lane and delivered a pinpoint behind the back pass to Townsend in the left corner. She promptly hit a three-point shot. Young followed that with her own three not 20 seconds later. With only 12 seconds left, Young stole a pass and scored on a coast-to-coast layup.
In just over a minute, Young was the catalyst for an 8-0 run.
Effort did not falter in the fourth. Madison Arbaugh stole a pass at almost the six-minute mark with Hedrick forcing a double dribble only seconds later. Kiera Heavener’s tight defense also forced a turnover. Julia Mongold played strong defense that helped her team nearly blank the Yellow Jackets in the final stanza.
Leave a Reply