St. Marys’ star Clark signs with Rio Grande

ST. MARYS – Her future on the basketball court already secured, St. Marys senior Audra Clark has her sights set on one last goal – winning a Class A state basketball championship.

“That is my only concern right now,” said Clark minutes prior to taking to the court in the Blue Devils’ Region I championship game against an unranked Magnolia squad. “I don’t have to worry about coaches sitting in the stands and watching my every move and that has taken a load off of my back.”

The reason for that is the St. Marys standout has already signed her letter of intent to continue her basketball career at the University of Rio Grande. The Mid-South Conference member is presently 8-22 on the season-6-9 at home and 2-18 in league play.

Head coach Dave Smalley is in his 21st season with the program and carried a career record of 416-231 (.643) into this season.

“The first time I visited their campus and met coach Smalley, I knew that it was the school for me,” said Clark, who plans on majoring in elementary education. “There were other schools, but I just knew this one was the right one for me.”

Among those other schools the six-footer looked at was Marietta College.

“It was a really tough decision.” Clark said. ”Both schools have what I want to major in and both have very good teams with very good coaches that would make my time in college an exciting experience.”

But before she accepts her diploma and heads off to college, Clark has one last accomplishment to attain while at the Pleasants County school. That road begins at 9:30 a.m. on Wednesday when the No. 3-seeded Blue Devils (23-1) take on No. 6 Tygarts Valley in the first round of the state tournament in Charleston.

A victory in that contest and a win by No. 2 Wheeling Central over No. 7 Valley (F) at 1 p.m. Wednesday will set up a Friday morning rematch against the only team that has defeated the Blue Devils this year – Paul Kurtz’s Maroon Knights.

“I’m trying not to think about it (this being her last state tournament),” said Clark. “I’m sure it will be in the back of my mind. It all kind of hit me for the first time on Senior Night.”

Clark’s accomplishments have been many.

A two-time all-Little Kanawha Conference player and a leading candidate for the league’s Player of the Year award after leading the purple and gold to its fourth straight Night of Champions title, Clark is a two-time member of the W.Va. Sports Writers Association’s Class A all-state squad.

The only thing that is missing from her resume is a state championship and if the Blue Devils advance to Saturday’s noon title game, it is more than likely that they will face four-time defending Class A champions Huntington St. Joseph.

“I think this team is up to the challenge,” explained Clark. “We’ve played them before, so we know what to expect. It will come down to the team that can stay focused for 32 minutes and execute, and we have been doing a good job of doing that ever since our loss to Central.”

Audra Clark is the third of four children of Marty and Verna Clark. The eldest is Ashley (27) followed by Zachary (24), Audra and Stewart (17), who is a junior at SMHS.