CHARLESTON – Parkersburg South’s road to perfection took a wrong turn Saturday night at the Civic Center as the Patriots suffered their first loss of the season to Morgantown by a 46-39 margin in the Class AAA state championship game.
“The game started just the way we wanted it to,” Parkersburg South head coach Scott Stephens said. “We were able to knock down some shots and score in transition.”
Meeting for the fourth time this season, the Patriots jumped out to a 17-9 lead after the first quarter of action, but watched as the Mohigans sliced that margin to 28-24 at the intermission.
Morgantown, now 18-8 on the season, continued to chip away, finally taking its second lead of the contest, 29-28, on a Katie Ferrebee triple with 5:48 showing on the third-quarter clock. The Mohigans continued to build on their lead when Sydney Holloway canned a pair of free throws 24 seconds later.
Parkersburg South, which closes the season at 25-1, finally got on the scoreboard on a Katelyn Byrd layin off of a Taryn McCutcheon pass at the 5:18 mark.
Another triple by Ferrebee and a rebound bucket by Rachel Laskody pushed the Mohigans lead to six, 36-30, with 2:15 left in the third quarter.
But, the Patriots were able to slice the margin to four on a McCutcheon layup with two minutes remaining.
Those, however, would be the final points for either team in the third period as Morgantown took a 36-32 lead into the final eight minutes of play.
Parkersburg South would continue to cut into the Mohigans’ advantage as the fourth quarter got underway as reserve Laken Valentine hauled in a loose ball and scored just 33 seconds into the period and then McCutcheon, who finished with a game-high 16 points, connected on one-of-two from the charity stripe 25 seconds later to pull the Patriots to within one, 36-35.
But back-to-back layins by Morgantown’s Brie Giuliani and Olivia Seggie pushed the Mohigans lead back to five, 40-35, and the Patriots would get no closer than three over the final six minutes of the game.
“Give all the credit to Morgantown,” said Stephens. “They shot the ball extremely well.”
It was the Patriots, however, that were shooting lights out at the start of the game as McCutcheon hit a bank shot and back-to-back triples to give the defending state champions a 9-5 lead at the 5:05 mark.
A one-for-two effort by Carlie Wilson pushed the margin to five, 10-5, with 3:51 left in the frame. But, 11 seconds later the ‘turning point’ occurred when the Mohigans’ Maria Williams and South’s Keya Bartlett collided while diving for a loose ball.
The head-to-head hit sent both players to the benches for the remainder of the game as Bartlett suffered a severe cut.
“To me, that was the turning point of the game,” said the South coach. “You take a player away that is averaging 17 points a game and plays great defense, it’s going to hurt and it did tonight.”
Bartlett, who joined McCutcheon on the all-tournament team, had averaged 18.5 points per game in the Patriots’ first two tournament games.
“Losing a player like (Keya) Bartlett is going to hurt,” Morgantown head coach Jason White said. “We lost Maria (Williams) and that hurt, but not as much as them not having Bartlett.”
Bartlett, the team’s leading scorer during the regular season, did return for the second half, but was relegated to watching the game from the bench.
“She (Bartlett) is going to be OK,” said Stephens. “She got a cut on her head and unfortunately it was right on a blood vessel so there was a lot of blood.
“We just couldn’t take a chance on it getting hit again, so we didn’t play her in the second half.”
A half dominated by the Mohigans’ defense.
“I told the girls after the first quarter that if we continued to give up 17 points then we weren’t going to have a chance,” said White. “But, to their credit, they came out in the second quarter and buckled down on defense and that was the difference in the game.”
A game that may very well be replayed in 12 months.
“Coach Stephens and I talked before the game and he congratulated us on being here and we congratulated them on being here,” said White. “Then, he looked at me and said, ‘let’s do this again next year’.”
McCutcheon was the only Patriot to reach double digits, but Byrd chipped in seven while Seggie and Guiliani led the Mohigans with 14 and 10 points, respectively.