By Stephen Smoot
Tygarts Valley, a preseason top 10 selection in West Virginia single A, brought a two and one record to Franklin in the week running up to Christmas.
The Wildcats, however, made sure that the disciplined squad from Randolph County went home with stockings full of coal.
The home team pushed out to an early lead as Avery Townsend floated a three-point shot over the Bulldogs’ zone defense 30 seconds into the game. Tygarts Valley responded with a 10-foot jumpshot, but with six minutes left in the first, Julia Mongold hit another three to give their team a 6-2 lead.
Shortly thereafter, the Bulldogs hit two free throws and a long shot of their own to surge ahead 7-6.
Tygarts Valley took their biggest lead with less than a minute left, hitting a free throw to make the score 11-9. Jenna Smith erased the lead with 16 seconds left, hitting a three-point shot to set the score at 12-11. Gabby DePue put the exclamation mark on the end of the quarter in the final seconds, taking an offensive rebound and laying it up at the buzzer.
One minute into the second quarter, Townsend extended the lead by stealing a ball and driving the length of the floor for a layup. A minute later, DePue took another offensive rebound in for a score to push the lead to 18-11.
That was followed by a steal taken for a finger roll layup by Mongold and a strong post move and score by Susan Vincell, giving the team a 22-11 lead with 4:51 left in the half.
Neither team scored again in the stanza.
Tygarts Valley did not lack for talent, experience, or ability. They ran their offense efficiently, handled the ball well, and frustrated the Wildcats at times with good defense. They also blocked out well and grabbed their share of rebounds at both ends of the floor.
The Bulldogs came out and played better offensively in the third quarter. They put rebounds back for buckets and hit more jump shot opportunities. Every play the Bulldogs made to chew their way into the lead, a Wildcat made a big play to counter. When Tygarts Valley hit a layup and a three to cut the lead to seven, Smith buried a three to extend the lead at the 6:10 mark.
Another opponent layup a minute later came just before a Townsend pass found Mongold on a fast break for an easy two. At the 2:51 mark, Townsend hit a step back three to give her team a 30-19 lead.
Wildcat defenders continued to harass the visitors. Kiera Heavener’s quick defense stopped Bulldog attempts to break through to the hoop. Townsend, Jessica Parker, and Mongold broke up plays by getting their hands on the ball. DePue and Vincell rebounded well. Smith broke up fast breaks by sheer hustle and determination.
Townsend led the Wildcats in stepping up the pressure to shut down any chance of a comeback. Repeatedly, she attacked the ballhandler and either stole the ball or forced a bad pass. She opened the fourth with a steal and a layup, something she did three times in the first two minutes of the quarter. This gave the Wildcats a 16-point lead.
As time wound down, Pendleton County had an answer for every Bulldog play. With 3:25 left. Tygarts Valley hit a shot, but only 20 seconds later, Jameigh Miller hit Parker with a pass that led to a layup and a 40-26 advantage.
Parker later closed the scoring with two made free throws at the 31 second mark to seal a 44-28 win.
Head coach Donnie Kopp said, “We missed some easy shots, but Tygarts Valley was ranked seventh in the state. They had a couple of good players.”
Additionally, Pendleton County has played nine games to only three by the Bulldogs. Kopp explained, “We’re tired, but we sucked it up and did the best we could. I like what I’ve been seeing. We looked a lot better.”
The Wildcats got to enjoy a lengthy rest before hosting Harman at 7 p.m. Friday and Keyser at noon Saturday. They travel to Union on Monday and host Pocahontas on Tuesday and East Hardy on Jan. 11.