Bruce McKean: Seventh Lady Warrior Trip To States Ends In Seventh Heartbreaking Loss
Charleston, WV – Seventh Lady Warrior trip to states ends in seventh heartbreaking loss
PCHS cheering section and cheerleaders win third state spirit award
The girls basketball trips to states all started in 2002 for PCHS, a school that opened in 1970, and in what was supposed to be a rebuilding year. That first ever trip to states ended in a 52-21 loss to seven-time state champion and #1 ranked Mercer Christian Academy (MCA) of Princeton. PCHS, ranked #13 in the Coaches Poll and unranked in the AP Poll, got to Charleston that year with a 37-33 regional win in the fourth game that season versus a good Harman team. Senior all-stater Tausha Cassell, who averaged team highs of 10 points and 8 rebounds per game, put up 12 points and 10 rebounds to lead PCHS past Harman for a third time that season. John Snyder was head coach of PCHS, and Matt Davis was head coach of Harman. I was reminded this week that Pocahontas had come within eight points of MCA at the Pitt Row Classic in December of 2002, and after beating #2 Gilmer County in the biggest regional upset in Lady Warrior history, the girls and coaches thought they had a good chance to beat MCA at states. When you realize that MCA beat Big Creek 104-31 and Montcalm 95-20 in their sectional games, nervous PCHS first-timers did pretty good against a team going for their fourth straight state title . There was no seeding at that time, so it was bad luck that matched PCHS against the three-time defending state champions their first time at states.
The next six PCHS trips to Charleston in 2003, 2004, 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012 have now been lost by a range of one to seven points with an impressive average of 3.67 points per loss. Expectations have increased with each trip, and the other seven teams came in this year with the following tournament history: #8 Midland Trail – two previous trips, one win and two losses; #7 Charleston Catholic – 25 trips, 27 wins and 23 losses, two titles and four runners-up; #6 Tucker County – 19 trips, 18 wins and 15 losses, four titles and two runners-up; #4 Trinity, two trips and two losses the past two seasons; #3 Williamstown – six trips, 8 wins and 5 losses, one title and one runners-up; #2 Wheeling Central – 18 trips, 24 wins and 16 losses, two titles and five runners-up; and #1 St. Joseph – five trips, 11 wins and two losses, three titles and 1 runners-up.
I wrote previously that MaxPreps.com has a playoff ranking that ranked #5 seed PCHS and #4 seed Trinity in a tie for sixth place in West Virginia Class A. #1 seed St. Joseph Central of Huntington and #2 Wheeling Central Catholic were ranked # 1 and #2 also by MaxPreps, and the two met in the Class A state championship Saturday with St. Joe taking their fourth straight championship 57-49. St. Joe plays a multi-state schedule that is the toughest in the state, and all six of their losses were to bigger out-of-state powers.
A big following of PCHS fans and students traveled to the Charleston Civic Center on Friday with expectations that this year was going to be different in the 9 PM fourth and last Class A opener. After all, Trinity’s only regular season loss was to #6 seed Tucker 53-45 at Trinity the day after PCHS beat Tucker for the second time in three match ups this season at the PVC Championship in Elkins. What we did not know until recently was that one starter on Trinity’s team did not play in that Tucker game.
Ryan Pritt of the Charleston Gazette described the war of the warriors from Morgantown and Dunmore on Thursday as “quite an ugly, physical and competitive battle” and “a defensive slugfest”. Derek Taylor of the Charleston Daily Mail reported that: “After shooting just 15.8 percent from the floor in the first half, No. 5 Pocahontas County chipped away at what was at one point an eight-point Trinity lead, largely on the strength of inside play by senior forwards Chloe Bland and Miranda McNabb. Bland put the Warriors ahead, 26-24, with 1:35 left in the third and Pocahontas led until the final stages of the game afterward.”
Both teams got off to a slow start offensively. Trinity seniors Haley Triplett and Jackie Halapy and PCHS seniors Chloe Bland and Miranda McNabb accounted for all the scoring in the low scoring first quarter except for a layup by sophomore Jackie Halapy of Trinity. A three by Trinity senior Tara Neely and another by Triplett was the only scoring in the last six minutes of the first quarter that ended with PCHS down 3-11. The Lady Warriors struggled with their shooting and getting up the floor through the trapping defense of Trinity, and Trinity struggled on their passes versus the PCHS defense.
Two foul shots by Miranda McNabb and a jumper by fellow senior Erin White cut the Trinity lead to open the second frame to 11-7. Trinity was called for twice as many fouls in the first half, 12-6, and PCHS shot more foul shots in the second period, but only connected on 6 of 13 in the first half for 46.2%. Trinity hit 3 of 6 for 50%. Both teams attempted seven threes each. Trinity hit two to end the first quarter. PCHS missed all six threes, and that has been a problem before when PCHS plays at the Civic Center. The open area behind the baskets and lighting have both been mentioned by players as the reason for the missed shots. Trinity had 15 turnovers to 14 for Pocahontas, but Trinity had over twice as many steals, 11 to 5 in the half. Trinity shut down our assists and led that stat 5-1. Trinity pulled down two more defensive rebounds 15-13, and each team managed six offensive boards. By the end of the half, PCHS was down by five, 12-17, the lowest score of any game at the half in the twelve opening games on Wednesday and Thursday.
Things began to heat up offensively for both teams in the second half. Junior Olivia Workman, recovering from a concussion she received in a minor car wreck during the week, made the first five PCHS points of the third. With 6:37 to go Neely of Trinity was assesed a technical foul for calling a PCHS player an un-Christian name. Miranda hit both resulting free throws and a three to boot that started a PCHS 11-0 run, and enough to pull PCHS within two, 22-24.. An Erin White jumper tied the game at 24-24. A Chloe Bland layup gave PCHS their first lead of the game 26-24 with 1:38 to go in the third. A tip-in by Erin White put PCHS up 28-24. PCHS outscored Trinity 16 points to 9 in the third quarter and took a 28-26 lead into the final quarter. PCHS scored nine points in the third off of turnovers to two for the Morgantown team.
PCHS high scorer in the game Miranda McNabb fouled out with 3:19 to go in the game with PCHS up 33-30, and you could hear a collective groan from the PCHS faithful. The two teams traded baskets in the fourth quarter until Workman hit one of two foul shots at the 1:06 mark that upped the PCHS lead to 36-32. PCHS attempted to run some time off the clock, but Trinity forced a turnover and cut the lead to 36-34 at 54 seconds as Halapy hit two of her four free throws in the period that started a 6-0 run to end the game. Trinity then tied the game at 36-36 with 44 seconds to go when Myers stole a poor PCHS pass and drove for a too easy layup. PCHS then tried to setup for the game winning basket, but Triplett stole the ball and went in for another easy layup, and Trinity would take the lead 38-36.
On Pocahontas’ ensuing possession, a tie-up gave the ball to Trinity with15.8 seconds on the clock. The strong PCHS defense forced a five-second call giving the ball back to PCHS for another chance to tie with a 2-pointer or win with a trey. Workman shot an 18-footer that hit the rim, and Bland got the rebound. Bland’s put-back also failed to go in, and two more tips by PCHS players bounced out. The ball and players from both teams madly went after the ball as the buzzer sounded.
The heartbreaking 38-36 loss dropped the PCHS record to 21-5 versus a 21-3 record in 2011. 21 wins is the PCHS record for wins in a season. Trinity improved to 24-1, but lost to St. Joseph Central in the semi-finals on Friday by a score of 64-32. Trinity’s biggest lead was eight points with 2:27 to go in the first quarter, and the biggest PCHS lead was five points with 5:01 to go in the fourth quarter. The score was tied three times in the game and the lead changed two times.
Both teams scored 16 points in the paint, and PCHS led 18-12 in points off of turnovers and 5-4 in second chance points. Trinity led 6-2 in fast break points and 6-0 in bench points. Trinity shot all type shots better by 29.5% to 28.6% on twos, 25% to 14.3% on threes and 52.9% to 45.5% on free throws. Trinity committed three more turnovers, 28 to 25. Trinity frustrated PCHS with a 20-11 steals advantage and an 11-6 assists advantage.
Leading Trinity in scoring was sophomore Jackie Halapy with 12 points and 14 rebounds. Neely and Haley Triplett each scored eight points. Miranda McNabb led PCHS with 12 points and a team high 6 rebounds. Bland finished with 9 points, 11 rebounds and a team high four steals. Snead was held to one point but grabbed a team high six rebounds. Workman had 8 points, 4 rebounds and two blocks. White hit 100% of her shots for six points, grabbed four rebounds and had a team high two assists. Freshmen Tristan Day and Bobbie McNabb each tallied two steals.
Of the 48 basketball teams who qualified for either the girls or boys state tournament this year, only eight schools qualified both their boys and girls squads in 2012. Those eight basketball powers included three Class AAA and five Class A schools. No Class AA school qualified two teams. The eight schools listed from best combined seed down are: South Charleston, Wheeling Park, Charleston Catholic, Trinity Christian, Tucker County, George Washington, Midland Trail and Pocahontas County. South Charleston, Wheeling Park and George Washington are Class AAA schools.
The Class A awards announced at the state championship game were: All-tournament team – sophomores Griffin Dempsey, Mychal Johnson and Asia Petitte of St. Joseph Central; senior Cassie Sorge and juniors Colleen McCormick and Emily Bucon of Wheeling Central; Caitlin Maxwell of Tucker County; and senior Elizabeth Flowers of Williamstown. Sportsmanship award – Williamstown. Spirit award – Pocahontas County.
PCHS also won the spirit award in 2003 and in 2010. The student cheering section and cheerleaders are judged during the tournament. The cheerleader sponsors are Darlene Arbogast and Melodi Knisely. Cheerleaders are Jennifer Fertig, Kristen Beverage, Sommer Hickman, Tiffanie Alexander, Josie Biller, Emily Fuller, Faith Coleman, Allysa Dunbrack, Harley Francisco and Alexandra Plate. Mali Minter has worked with the students to promote school spirit for many years now. Skylar Knisely, Jesse Taylor and Curtis Pyles are three boys basketball team members who have been loyal leaders of the student cheering section at the girls basketball games. The routines and cheers have been entertaining and fun to watch all season long.
Seniors Chloe Bland, Miranda McNabb, Erin White and Lyndsey Barlow all contributed so much to the school record four straight trips to the state basketball tournament. Coaches Tim McClung and Kenny Lehman will have big holes to fill next season in their attempt to guide the Lady Warriors to an eighth state tournament appearance. The entire community is so proud of this team both on and off the court.