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Calhoun falls to Cameron in state semifinal

Photo by Joe Albright Calhoun County’s Savannah Cunningham splits a pair of Cameron defenders on a drive to the hoop during Thursday’s state semifinal in Charleston.

CHARLESTON — In a Class A state tournament quarterfinal against Madonna on Tuesday, the Cameron Dragons held the Blue Dons to 28 points in picking up the victory.

It was a solid defensive effort, but Cameron head coach Holly Pettit said she doesn’t have a number in mind to tell the girls as they picked apart their opponent.

“As long as it is one less that what we score I am OK with it,” she said. “I know if we stick to the defensive game plan things can go in our favor.”

Apparently on Thursday in a semifinal against Calhoun County, as the defensive approach wasn’t broke, they didn’t fix. Pettit and company continued playing sterling defense and executed their game play to perfection in limiting Calhoun County scorers Josie Montgomery and Savannah Cunningham.

“They had a well-planned out defensive attack where everyone had their job and did their job very well,” Calhoun County head coach Kevin Boak said.

His duo combined for just 17 points and shot 5 of 25 from the field as the Dragons went on to a 44-28 win over the Red Devils.

“We did not get the looks we planned to get today,” he said.

With the help of freshmen Ashlynn Van Tassell and Kenzie Clutter, the first-time state tournament participants now face the winner of Tug Valley and Tucker County at 10 a.m. Saturday for the Class A state title. Van Tassell also contributed nine points, 14 rebounds, and four blocks, while Clutter tallied 14 points, seven boards and three assists.

“It is the first time I really saw the pressure get to us,” Boak said.

A lot of the problems started with Van Tassell and her considerable frame, according to Calhoun County player Jocelynn Yeager.

“She was muscular like a brute, and we couldn’t get past it,” she said.

The stress of the moment and Cameron’s defensive pressure started from the beginning of the contest. By taking away Calhoun’s ability to penetrate into the paint and hitting a few well timed 3s, the Dragons took a 13-6 lead after one period. As if they didn’t have enough to deal with, Calhoun’s effort became further hampered when Montgomery picked up two early fouls.

She then picked up foul No. 3 just 30 seconds into the second quarter, but Boak didn’t take her out. He couldn’t. The Red Devils didn’t have enough fire power without their leading scorer. And it proved to be the right decision, Montgomery and Yeager brought the group within 10 points twice, but Cameron answered each time.

Though, Van Tassell picking up her third foul certainly dampened the good feelings.

Cunningham’s free throws eventually sent the teams into the locker room with Cameron holding a 25-14 advantage.

After the break, Calhoun came out refreshed on defense. It buckled down and held the Dragons to just five points, while pulling within 30-22 on Montgomery’s layup with 0:53 seconds remaining.

Calhoun County got one final shot to make something happen. Cunningham did her best to help out as her layup brought her team with eight points with 6:54 left to play. But Neely and Clutter prevented the Red Devils from getting any closer. The duo scored nine of the Dragons final 12 points and defensively menaced their opponents.

This shouldn’t be a one-time trip to Charleston for the Red Devils. As Kaylin Parsons is the lone graduate, everyone else returns for another shot to get back to the Charleston Coliseum and Convention Center in 2022.

“We hope to get all the girls together over the summer, practice, and make our chemistry already better than it is and just come back with the momentum we left off with and go dominate next year,” Montgomery said when asked if she felt excitement toward preparing for next season.

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