ST. MARYS - After 11 games completed during a two-day span, the girls version of the second annual West Virginia Hometown Invitational Tournament crowned two champions this past weekend at St. Marys High School.
Behind 29 points from Kendra Walker, including 19 in the first half, St. Marys defeated Gilmer County, 74-48, for the Division 1 title. The two teams met on the same floor for the title last year with the Blue Devils taking care of the Titans, 82-57.
"I do consider it a big deal to win this tournament championship," St. Marys coach Howard Meeks said. "We'll definitely throw our hat into the ring next year."
After falling to Buffalo in Division 2 last year, Paden City used a solid third quarter showing this year to get past Doddridge County, 65-56. Earlier in the day, three members of the Wildcat basketball team traveled to Wheeling for a cheerleading competition but returned in plenty of time for the 7 p.m. tipoff at the WVHIT.
"We took second place in the OVAC cheerleading competition, then first place at the WVHIT, so it was a good night for Paden City," Paden City girls basketball coach David Riggle. "Winning the WVHIT, the girls were on Cloud Nine. Toward the end of the fourth quarter once we had a good grasp on the win, the girls were all smiles."
As an added bonus, Paden City placed two players on the 12-member all-tournament team. Against Doddridge County, senior Myah Charkawi made 13-of-16 free throw attempts and scored a game-high 25 points. Sophomore post player Cydney Blatt finished with 21 points, 11 rebounds, five steals and three blocks.
"Cydney was grabbing rebounds she had no business getting," Riggle said.
Paden City (8-7) took a 29-25 lead into intermission then changed a few offensive sets that enabled the Wildcats to build a 15-point lead in the third quarter. By the start of the fourth quarter, Doddridge County trailed, 51-39.
"The third quarter was one of those quarters where everything was going right and shots were falling," Riggle said. "The entire game - it was a very good effort. Everyone gave 150 percent.
"Hannah Stanley, Cydney Blatt and Kayla Hizer had to wake up at 5 a.m. for their cheerleading competition. They played their hearts out and it showed on the court."
Doddridge County girls landing a spot on the Division 2 all-tournament team were Sierra Riffle and Haley Stephenson.
In the last game on Saturday, Second-ranked St. Marys (15-0) wasted little time establishing its presence against third-ranked Gilmer County (13-3). The Blue Devils took a 23-9 lead after the first quarter then extended the gap to 55-30 by the start of the fourth quarter.
Gilmer County did not have an answer for Walker, who generated her success in the paint.
"Kendra was posting deeper nearer the basket and the guards did a good job of reading it," Meeks said.
After pouring in 41 points the previous night in a 62-51 win at Pocahontas County, senior Julie Bishop led Gilmer County with 17 points -10 fewer than she scored against the Blue Devils in last year's title game. Partly responsible for the defensive success on St. Marys' part was senior Mikaela Britton.
"Mikaela is such a complete player," Meeks said. "She usually gets the hardest assignment for the past two years. When she was a freshman, I once told my assistant I didn't know if she could play varsity because she was such a quiet kid and I didn't know if she would be tough enough."
Ashley Hall pitched in 11 points against Gilmer County and joined Walker on the Division 1 All-Tournament Team.
Representing Gilmer County on the all-tourney squad were Riley Fitzwater and Bishop.