By Stephen Smoot
For the second time this year, many currently on the Pendleton County girls’ basketball team will have to pack their bags for Charleston.
The victory over Union last week earned the girls a regional title and a trip to the state girls’ basketball tournament. Several members of the basketball team will bring postseason experience from volleyball along, helping to give them an advantage in playing on the biggest stage in state high school sports.
How the Wildcats won should send a message to future opponents that they will get Pendleton County’s strongest effort. The Wildcats took the tip off and roared into action early, going into an aggressive full court man to man press. Players provided as much energy and focus as they have expended in a game all season.
Though Pendleton County did not score on their first possession, Lizzie Alt stole a pass with only 30 seconds gone. Shortly after, Avery Townsend scored a layup and drew a foul.
Baylee Beachler took the ball from Union only 10 seconds after Townsend’s score. On defense and rebounding, she produced consistently, scoring multiple baskets after seizing offensive rebounds. Her first such score came with 6:11 left in the first, giving her team a 9-0 advantage.
In her final home game Ana Young put on a command performance. She hit a three only 40 seconds into the game. She had three steals in the first quarter alone, one starting a full court drive ending in a deft finger roll layup. With 3:31 left in the quarter, Young hit a three-pointer that set the score at 20-2.
The story of the first quarter, however, came from energetic and relentless defense. Gabby DePue blocked a shot at the 1:53 mark and Alt racked up another steal shortly thereafter. Union hit a three, however, with two seconds left to cut the Wildcat lead to 23-5.
Second quarter action opened with Alt finding Beachler down low for an easy layup. Union’s defense stiffened. They scored a layup with 7:24 left in the quarter, then traded scoreless possessions with the Wildcats with almost five minutes left in the half. The scoring lull ended when Young hit a finger roll layup with 3:30 left. She followed that with a three with an assist from Beachler. This extended the lead to 35-9 with less than three minutes left in the half.
With 42 seconds left, Jameigh Miller grabbed a steal and took it all the way down the court for a layup. Union answered with a layup, putting the halftime score at 44-18.
DePue dominated in the third quarter, starting with a steal at the 6:51 mark. She followed that with a blocked shot a minute later. With 5:30 left in the third, Young hit a layup, then stole the inbounds pass, scored again, and drew a foul. She missed the free throw, but the score by this point was 53-18.
As the game wound down, Kiera Heavener drained a three pointer at the 3:50 mark to push the lead to 74-30. Shortly after, Julia Mongold drove toward the basket, pulled up, and hit a 10-foot shot.
With 34 seconds left in the game and the starters having enjoyed almost a quarter of rest, Coach Micah Bailey subbed Young back in. With time running out, the team passed the ball to her. As the seconds ticked away in her last home game Young stood proudly, ball in hand, as the fans in the full bleachers rose to offer her one last standing ovation in appreciation for a legendary career.
Results of the Tuesday’s game against Cameron were not available by press time, but the following week’s edition will have full coverage of the state girls’ basketball tournament.