CHARLESTON, W.Va. — No. 3-seeded Tucker County held No. 6 Pocahontas County without a field goal for a 16-minute stretch spanning the second to the fourth quarter and coasted to a 51-31 victory in the Class A quarterfinals.
“We were excited to be here and we really thought our experience here would come in to play,” said Tucker County coach Jim Ambrose, whose team is making its 10th consecutive trip to the state tournament.
“We knew they didn’t have a large bench so we were going to pressure them, and I felt like that was a big factor today.”
Tucker County (20-4) won its 10th straight game overall and beat the Warriors (16-8) for the third time this season.
“Pocahontas is always a good game when we play, and they’re going to play hard,” Ambrose said. “We were just hoping we could wear them down and take control of the game.”
The Mountain Lions were led by Stephanie Betler’s game-high 15 points while Bekah Simmons added 12 points and grabbed six rebounds.
“Sometimes I struggle a little bit, but I know if I play defense then that will help my team even more,” Betler said.”
Savannah Ambrose was a force in the middle, blocking seven shots and pulling down nine rebounds.
“It’s definitely an advantage being taller,” the 6-foot-1 Ambrose said. “We knew what to expect since we played them before, and we came out and took care of business.”
Using full-court pressure that forced 23 turnovers, Tucker County held Pocahontas County to just 20 percent shooting, including 2-of-20 in the second half.
“It seemed like there was a lid on our basket that wouldn’t let the ball go through,” Pocahontas County coach Mike Kane said. “We had some good shots and some bad shots—they just didn’t go in.”
The Mountain Lions went on a 36-7 run during the Pocahontas field-goal drought.
“We talk about this all the time: You can shot the ball poorly on a given night,” Ambrose said. “But you can never get out-hustled ever. That’s something we can always control and I thought we responded and took care of business.”
Tucker County grabbed 21 offensive rebounds that lead to 15 second-chance points.
“We talked about second-chance points and extending plays, and we did that today,” Jim Ambrose said. “That helps a lot when you’re missing shots and that does a lot for our offense and against their defense.”
The Warriors, who fell to 0-8 in state tournament games, were led by freshman Sarah Ryder’s 13 points, including 7-of-8 from the free-throw line.
“The potential that Sarah Ryder and Bobbie McNabb has is real exciting,” Kane said. “They just have to work hard.”
McNabb added four points and five rebounds for Pocahontas County, which battled Tucker County’s height advantage yet only trailed 41-35 in rebounds.
“It’s pretty tough, but you just have to compete and play hard,” McNabb said.
Tucker County, which won its last of four championships in Class AA in 1998, awaits the winner of the St. Marys-Fayetteville game in the semifinals on Friday at 11:15 a.m.