CHARLESTON – A year after losing in the Class A state quarterfinals to Williamstown, No. 4 seed Tucker County got its revenge here late Wednesday night inside the Charleston Civic Center as the Mountain Lions outlasted the Yellowjackets, 61-53.
Fifth-seeded Williamstown got off to a quick start and led 5-2 after Jessie Kerns scored on the baseline and Brooke Cieslewski drained a 3-pointer. The last lead for WHS (14-10) came at 7-6 when Kenzie Smith, who finished with a team-high 19 points, scored on a lay-in. The game was even at 10 at 3:39 of the first after Smith canned a pair of charity stripe tosses, but the Mountain Lions took the lead for good when point guard Hunter Radford converted a layup.
Tucker County, which got a game-high 24 points from Stephanie Betler and 21 more from Amber Evans, proceeded to dominate the rest of the first half. Tucker County led 36-19 at intermission and scored 28 of its points in the paint. The Yellowjackets, who missed 13 of 14 from downtown in the first half and shot just 21 percent (7 of 33) from the floor, wouldn’t go down without a fight.
Triples by Smith and Kathleen Cornell cut the Tucker County advantage to 36-25 at 5:27 of the third and the deficit still stood at 11, 46-35, entering the final eight minutes.
Try as they might, and despite Tucker County (20-5) getting into serious foul trouble, the ‘Jackets just couldn’t rally all the way back.
A pair of Kerns free throws were followed by a Lauren Amos steal and lay-in as WHS needed just 13 seconds at the start of the fourth to slice the deficit to seven points.
After Tucker County turned the ball over for the 25th time, Sami Rea made a layup to bring the score to 48-44 with 6:37 remaining. Just 32 seconds later, Smith converted a lay-in from a Cieslewski dish and it was finally back to a one possession affair. At that point, Tucker County head coach Jim Ambrose inserted his players with foul trouble – Radford and Evans – back into the lineup and the Mountain Lions never let Williamstown get any closer the rest of the way.
Even though Williamstown closed to 46-44 with 6:05 to play, the Yellowjackets finished the rest of the contest with three turnovers and missed 12 of 13 from the field. Williamstown’s last field goal of the season was a Cieslewski trey with 3:07 left, which pulled head coach Fred Sauro’s club to within three at 54-51.
Evans pulled down 12 rebounds to finish with the lone double-double while teammate Savannah Ambrose hauled in a game-high 13 caroms.
Tucker County, which will play four-time defending state champion Huntington St. Joe at 1 p.m. Friday in the semifinals, held the Yellowjackets to just 26 percent (17 of 66) shooting. Williamstown lost the battle on the boards 51-37, but forced 30 Mountain Lions turnovers. Although the ‘Jackets had 18 turnovers, coach Sauro’s squad missed 21 of 26 from 3-point land and made only 14 of 25 from the foul line.
Cieslewski added 16 points, Cornell had six and Kerns, who had five assists, chipped in five markers.