BEVERLY - Parkersburg South jumped out to a 15-point first-half lead and then fought off a valiant second-half Fort Frye charge as the Patriot girls basketball team opened defense of its state title with a 57-45 victory over the Cadets Tuessday night.
The Patriots converted on 20 of 25 free throws in the game, including a perfect 12-for-12 in the final quarter to curtail the Cadets' comeback attempt.
"That's a very tough team to open the season against and a very tough place to play in," said South head coach Scott Stephens. "We knew they would make a run at us in the second half, but I felt our kids played hard and overall we played well."
The new-look Cadets featured four new starters after graduating four starters from last year's Final Four team, and the new talent came out ice cold in the opening half as they connected on just 6 of 28 field-goal attempts.
"We've got good scorers on this team; we just couldn't get anything to fall in the first half," said Cadet head coach Dan Liedtke. "We just plain didn't shoot the ball like we can shoot the ball."
South took full advantage of the Fort Frye shooting slump, outscoring the Cadets 15-7 in the second period to take a 34-19 lead into intermission.
An inside basket from Anna Hayton to open the second half gave South a 17-point lead and it appeared the Patriots were on the verge of blowing things wide open.
Fort Frye, though, began to chip away at the lead as three balls from Megan Liedtke and Michelle Adkins sandwiched a Hayton field goal to trim the lead to a dozen at 38-26.
With South getting into the bonus late in the third quarter, the Patriots took care of business at the charity stripe as all but two of their final 18 points came from the free-throw line.
Shawntell Parsons, who got into early foul trouble and missed a large portion of the first half, opened the final period for the Cadets with a left-handed drive to the hoop to cut the lead to 43-33.
After sophomore Taryn McCutcheon sank a pair of free-throw attempts for the Patriots, Katelyn Byrd followed with the lone field goal of the final quarter to increase the lead to 47-35 with under five minutes to play.
The Cadets struggled a bit at the free-throw line as they made just 10-of-20 in the game, but senior Brooke Borich hit three of four to take yet another chunk out of the South lead. And when Liedtke stepped back and drained her third triple of the game, all of the sudden, it was a just two-possession ballgame at 47-41.
"I felt really good about our effort as our girls fought back and got it all the way down to six points," said Dan Liedtke. "They continued to fight and did not quit."
The Cadet rally would stop right there as led by McCutcheon, the Patriots finished on a 10-2 run to finish things off.
McCutcheon finished with a game-high 20 points, including 12-of-14 from the line, while Carlie Wilson and Byrd finished in double figures with 12 and 10 points respectively.
Wilson completed a double-double by grabbing 11 rebounds in the game, second to Hayton's 12.
Megan Liedtke led the Cadets with 13 points and 10 rebounds in the game, while Borich added 11 and Parsons finished with nine points, eight coming in the final half.
Both coaches felt that playing top-notch competition will prove beneficial as the season progresses.
"Playing quality teams like this are games we will learn from," said Dan Liedtke. "We will learn from this one and be a better team for it."
"They (Fort Frye) are a great team, they are great kids and they don't quit," said Stephens. "We've got a lot of things we are going to need to get better at, but overall it's a good start."
Fort Frye will try for its first win of the season Thursday when they travel to River , while South opens its home schedule Friday as they welcome Wheeling Park.