CHARLESTON - Rugged at best, pretty not at all.
Despite committing 17 turnovers and shooting 36 percent from the field, the St. Marys girls basketball team passed its first test at the Class A state tournament Thursday afternoon by pulling away from Fayetteville, 71-40.
By improving to 23-1, the Blue Devils advance to today's semifinal round against Tucker County at the Charleston Civic Center. Tip-off against the Mountain Lions is set for 11:15 a.m.
Photo courtesy of Action Images
St. Marys senior Kendra Walker, right, blocks a shot by Fayetteville’s Maddie Pritt during their Class A quarterfinal game Thursday in Charleston. Walker finished with 17 points and 13 rebounds as the Blue Devils defeated the Pirates, 71-40.
The first quarter witnessed four lead changes and three ties as St. Marys established a 10-9 lead.
"It looked like a root canal for awhile - it was a team ugly win," St. Marys coach Howard Meeks said. "The first four balls that hit the floor today, Fayetteville was on the floor and St. Marys watched. If that happens (Friday), we're going home.
"I have one of the quietest, nicest bunch of kids, but if they want to stay around for Saturday they better get on the floor and understand nice girls don't go anywhere down here in Charleston."
St. Marys trailed 16-15 midway in the second quarter, but a bucket from Mykaela Britton marked the sixth and final lead change of the game. Fayetteville went scoreless the final 5:13 of the first half and the Blue Devils padded the lead to 25-16 by intermission.
The Pirates opened the second half by knocking down their first four shots from the field, but St. Marys had an answer on each exchange. The margin remained nine at 37-28 when Blue Devil freshman Jenna Nichols converted a three-point play then scored off an assist from Britton to push the advantage to 42-28 with just under two minutes remaining in the third quarter. Nichols also added two free throws just before the quarter ended the keep the difference at 14 (44-30).
"The girl who really played a game is the Nichols girl," Meeks said.
Fayetteville never cut the deficit fewer than 11 points. Ashley Hall's three free throws followed by two more charity tosses by Kendra Walker started the ball rolling for St. Marys, which used a 17-2 run to put the game out of reach at 67-38. During that stretch, Walker scored 11 of her 17 points.
The 6-foot-4 senior was limited to two points in the first half before busting out in the final 16 minutes.
"When we were attacking there first half, we forgot the 6-4 girl was down in the paint," Meeks said.
Both Walker and Hall finished with a double-double. Walker pulled down a team-high 13 rebounds, while Hall scored a game-high 19 points to go with 12 boards. Despite picking up two fouls in the first two minutes of the game, Britton remained a force on the floor at point guard and contributed 13 points and four assists.
A major downfall for Fayetteville (16-8) was its free-throw shooting. The Pirates were just 25 percent accurate (6-of-24) from the charity stripe.
Leading the Pirates in scoring were Maddie Pritt with 10 points to go with a team-high seven rebounds, and Kendall Malay with 10 points.