By Stephen Smoot
Head coach Donnie Kopp faced a difficult, but unique challenge last week. His team has competed against some of the larger schools in the state. Last Friday night, it faced Harman, one of the smallest. The squad from Randolph County came to Franklin averaging approximately eight points per game
The challenge lay in giving an outgunned opponent respect. This was no occasion to run up a gaudy score, nor should the Wildcats have treated the game as completely uncompetitive.
Pendleton County knocked the opening tip out of bounds and to Harman. Nine seconds into the game, however, Avery Townsend stole the ball and took it the length of the floor for the game’s first two points. Almost 30 seconds later she took another steal. In that possession, Jenna Smith found Susan Vincell for a 15-foot bucket from the foul line extended.
The Wildcats played a zone defense that rarely extended beyond the three-point arc. Harman could freely pass it on the outside, but attempts to find players inside more often than not found Wildcat defenders.
At the 4:30 mark, Julia Mongold sent a pass to the post, finding Townsend for a layup and a foul. She completed the old fashioned three-point play to set the score at 13-0. Almost a minute later, Kiera Heavener found Jameigh Miller moving toward the basket. She caught the ball and laid it in. A Heavener jump shot also scored the final points of a quarter that Pendleton County finished with a 25-0 lead.
Mongold opened scoring in the second with a three-point shot. Two minutes later, Nataley Hedrick fired a pass to Vincell who completed a six-foot jumper, setting the advantage at 33-0. The same combination scored a minute later.
Miller fought for an offensive rebound and scored a layup to set the score at 40-0. Townsend finished scoring in the half with a 17-foot shot giving the Wildcats a 42-0 score.
Harman brought six players on their squad to the game. They struggled to run their offense, but never faltered in effort. A small, but vocal cheering section applauded every rebound, every well-defended possession, and every positive move as a victory in itself. The parents helped to keep the players in good spirits despite the massive gap between the two teams.
The Panthers hit their first basket, a 16-foot jump shot, with 6:41 left in the third. Harman’s shooters found the basket four times in the quarter, only being outscored 16 to eight in the stanza.
With Gabby DePue out due an illness, Vincell showed her progress in developing post moves as well as shots and drives from the foul line area in the Wildcats’ high low set. In the past few games, the freshman center has emerged as a reliable scorer underneath, giving the team another potential weapon.
Another freshman showing steady improvement, Jessica Parker has shown strength as a rebounder while developing confidence in shooting. She hit a three with 1:39 in the third to extend the lead to 53-8. She also took a Townsend pass and scored a layup for the first points of the fourth.
Harman continued to hit shots in the fourth, being outscored in the final frame only 11 to eight. The second half saw the Wildcats passing and showing patience as they worked the clock. Heavener took an offensive rebound in for a score late and Parker closed scoring with an offensive rebound and layup to put the final at 71-16.
Due to inclement weather, the home game against the Keyser Golden Tornadoes set for Saturday was rescheduled for 5 p.m. on Jan. 20.
The Wildcats are scheduled to host East Hardy tonight and to travel to Tucker County on Tuesday and to Petersburg on Jan. 18.
Nataley Hedrick looks to pass as Jenna Smith gets in position in the victory over Harman.