GSC women take home second-straight MEC title

WHEELING — A new hosting venue, but the same results.

For the second straight year, the top-seeded Glenville State women’s basketball team was able to cut down the nets. The Pioneers held off a fierce Charleston rally in a 78-69 victory during the Mountain East Conference Tournament championship Sunday afternoon at WesBanco Arena.

“Charleston is a phenomenal team,” Glenville State coach Kim Stephens said. “One of the best teams we have faced and one of the best Mountain East teams I have seen. It’s hard to beat teams three times and it’s really hard to beat great teams three times. They gave us a game and we knew it was going to be a game. I was really, really proud of our effort down the stretch.”

Glenville State (29-2) came out of the gates on a mission, forced a couple of quick turnovers in the opening minutes and tallied a 13-2 lead after four minutes thanks to a 10-0 run.

The lead got to as many as 15 points early in the third quarter, however the Golden Eagles (25-6) made some adjustments at halftime and switched to a 3-2 zone that gave the Pioneers some headaches.

Charleston put together a run of its own and got within two points after scoring 12 unanswered.

When facing adversity, great teams always find ways to respond. And in the fourth quarter, that’s when Emily Stoller stepped up.

Stoller hit three big 3-pointers in a span of a little more than two minutes to give the Pioneers a comfortable 74-67 lead with 48 seconds left. She also hit a pair of free throws to virtually put the game out of reach with 31.5 seconds remaining.

What makes her performance down the stretch even more special was a teammate that hit a big shot earlier in the fourth quarter to give them some breathing room.

Raziyah Farrington tallied a bucket and cut the Golden Eagles’ deficit to one, 62-61.

That’s when Abby Stoller, Emily’s sister, drained a 3-pointer –her only field goal of the contest — to make it a two-possession game.

After catching fire behind the arc, the first thing Emily did was go over to her sister and tell her how important that shot was for her team.

“She was coming off the bench after I hit those 3s and that was the first thing I had to say to her,” Emily Stoller said. “It was a big shot.”

Emily Stoller posted a solid 21 points while Ty Armstrong led the way for the Pioneers with 23.

Re’shawna Stone netted 17 points going 7 of 12 from the field and was also named the tournament MVP.

For the Golden Eagles, Farrington had 28 points while Dionna Sanders posted a double-double with 25 points and 14 rebounds.

“There’s no questions, we pride ourselves in playing really hard and defending,” Charleston coach Becky Burke said. “Following a game plan and executing what we ask them to do. I thought we sold out doing that. To really have a game plan, to execute it, for them to be as coachable as they were not only through this whole week, but (Sunday), we made adjustments at halftime. We bought in and executed to perfection. I’m just crushed we couldn’t come out on the other end of it because our effort our girls gave.”

For Stephens, she got to experience a tournament championship in Charleston last year and Wheeling this.

“Wheeling was good,” Stephens said. “The people here have been phenomenal. We got an escort to the game. I thought that was really special. The police officers were great, our girls loved it and it meant a lot to us.”

Following the game, the MEC gave out its awards for the All-Tournament team. Receiving an honor were Armstrong, Stone, Farrington, Brooklyn Pannell (Charleston), Kayla Tibbs (Shepherd), Andreanna Pool (Concord), Morgan Brunner (West Liberty), Marissa Brown (West Liberty).

Brunner also received the award for highest scoring average while Pannell got the Heart and Hustle Award.