Onward to state for South

PARKERSBURG – Led in scoring by a freshman and a sophomore, and after defense keyed a Parkersburg South third-quarter comeback from a 12-point halftime deficit, the host Patriots went on to register a 65-53 Class AAA Region I victory over University Tuesday night to secure a berth in next week’s state high school girls basketball tournament in Charleston.

Frosh point guard Taryn McCutcheon, showing no lingering effect from an ankle injury in a sectional-clinching win last Friday, tallied a game-high 26 points, including five treys, while soph Keya Bartlett, after being held scoreless in the first half, netted 14 points in the second half, including eight straight free throws in the final 1:03 to salt away the win for No. 6 South, now 17-7 after eight wins in its last nine games.

But the real key to the Patriots’ win came in the third quarter, when they clamped down on No. 4 University (18-7) defensively and outscored the visiting Hawks 18-10 to pull with four, 45-41, going to the fourth quarter.

South head coach Scott Stephens admitted his halftime talk to his players was ”rather loud. I was just disappointed in our effort, our heart wasn’t there and I just really rode them about after 82 practices. This wasn’t the way we were going to finish.”

An early third-quarter 12-2-run cut the gap to 10 twice and then in the fourth quarter, two Bartlett free throws with 2:35 to play pushed the Patriots on top for good at 52-51. Kayleigh Rexroad followed with a steal that led to Katelyn Byrd’s trey at 2:04 for a 55-51 lead, and with 1:42 remaining, South decided to hold the ball, forcing University to foul with the Patriots final 10 points coming at the foul line.

”Our defense in the third quarter was excellent; it got us back in the game, although I didn’t think it’d get us back in the game as fast as it did,” said Stephens, whose team’s last trip to the state tournament was three years ago.

The Patriots opened the game strong, scoring the first six points, and then were up by 14-7 at the 3:19 mark on a Carlie Wilson trey before the Hawks rallied with a 9-0 run to surge ahead 16-14, only to have McCutcheon connect for a trey at 44.4 seconds to lift South into a 17-16 lead at the quarter break.

The second stanza, though, saw University outpoint the Patriots 19-6 to take a 35-23 bulge into the locker room at halftime.

The Hawks were paced point-wise in the game by Kayla Boggs with 16 and Mariah Callen with 11.

”With all the adrenaline today, my ankle didn’t really bother me,” said McCutcheon, who mentioned ”defensive heart. As a team, we agreed to give it all the heart we could in the second half, knowing we couldn’t do it by ourselves.

”This (to go to the state) is unbelievable for me, but it’s been a great year for us all together.”

Bartlett, who made all 11 of her 13 free throws in second half, including 10 straight to finish the game, said Stephens told them at halftime ”not to give up, we’re still in this, and that he had seen teams come back from 15 points down in the second half to win. And we did come back and won it for him.”

She said it was ”an amazing feeling” to be going to the state tournament. ”I’m just so excited.”