South takes undefeated mark into Class AAA?title contest

CHARLESTON – All the issues Parkersburg South girls basketball coach Scott Stephens had with his team’s effort in Friday night’s Class AAA state semifinal game are just a blip on the radar now that the Patriots are one game away from defending last year’s title.

Keya Bartlett scored a game-high 27 points and top-seeded Parkersburg South pulled away from a tight first half to defeat fifth-seeded Martinsburg, 51-37. The Patriots’ opponent for today’s 7:15 championship game will be Morgantown.

“The state championship game is where we want to be,” Stephens said. “We’ve wanted an opportunity to defend what’s ours. We have the title and we don’t want anybody else to have it.”

While Parkersburg South improved to 25-0, Martinsburg closed out the season at 22-5. The Bulldogs received 16 points and 14 rebounds from Essence Underwood and another 14 points from Kristen Nunn. Their leading scorer from Thursday morning’s quarterfinal win against South Charleston, Taylor Ferguson, was limited to five shot attempts and five total points.

Given the assignment of guarding Ferguson was McCutcheon, who mastered her role beautifully.

“Parkersburg South took us out of our sets and out of our system,” said Martinsburg coach Wes Hall. “It was their intense man defense.”

“It was very frustrating trying to find openings,” Ferguson added. “(McCutcheon) is a very good ballplayer. She had great defense on me and it was hard for me to get open. I just didn’t produce like I could have.”

South established control early and built its largest lead of the first half, 18-8 at the 5:12 mark of the second quarter. Martinsburg, though, built momentum heading into the locker room by outscoring the Patriots 10-5 and trailed 23-18 at intermission.

“You keep it to minus-five going into halftime against an undefeated team with the history and tradition of Parkersburg South, we were feeling good,” Hall said.

South could not have scripted a better opening to the third quarter as Bartlett made one of her five 3-pointers to push the advantage to 26-18. After a bucket from Underwood, the Patriots ripped off four straight points, including a putback by Bartlett on her own miss.

Bartlett’s second trey of the quarter, both off assists from McCutcheon, closed out the period and gave South a cushion at 37-25.

“I like shooting from anywhere on the court,” Bartlett said. “I love playing here (at the Charleston Civic Center) because you always have a big crowd to play in front of.”

The Bartlett show took center stage once again at the start of the fourth quarter. After knocking down one bucket, the junior was fouled attempting a 3-pointer. She made all three free throws and the gap was now 17 at 42-25 with 6 minutes left in regulation.

The difference remained in double digits, and even hit a high-water mark of 18 at 48-30 with just under three minutes showing.

Producing a double-double for South was Anna Hayton with 12 points and 10 rebounds. Teammate Carlie Wilson led the way with 11 boards, while McCutcheon finished with eight points and nine assists.

“It’s so new playing here at the state tournament,” Hayton said. “You come from playing middle school to a bigger atmosphere. You’re nervous at first then once you start playing, it all goes away.”