CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Class AA No. 4 Winfield outlasted No. 5 Lincoln on Thursday night, advancing to the girls basketball state tournament semifinals with a 49-43 win over the Cougars.
“Our defensive pressure once again won the game for us, holding them to 43 points,” said Winfield coach Shawn Lucas. “We forced 17 turnovers. We were a little bit nervous at the beginning of the game and couldn’t hit our shots. But our defense kept us in the game and we’re very pleased with the win.”
Freshman ZZ Russell led the Generals (23-3) with 23 points on 8 of 17 shooting, including 3 of 7 from 3.
“She’s stronger than I thought she was,” said Lincoln coach Rob Hawkins of Russell. “She can take a bump and it doesn’t deter her. She’s quick and handles the ball well. It seemed like when she would drive to the basket, you couldn’t knock her off of her path.”
The two teams traded buckets in the first two quarters and went to the break tied 18-18.
A bank-3 from Russell with 1:42 left in the third gave Winfield a 32-24 advantage.
“I didn’t think that 3 was going to go in,” Russell said. “I was telling my teammates to box-out. But we were playing in a rhythm as a team and not just playing I-basketball – we played as a team. We slowed down the ball at the right time and sped up the game when we needed to.”
A 7-0 run from Lincoln cut the Cougars’ deficit to 32-31 just into the fourth quarter. Winfield’s Meagan Cavender followed with a banked-3 of her own, to stop Lincoln’s momentum and give the Generals a 35-31 lead.
“I think we called that bank-shot,” Lucas joked. “We needed it, that’s for sure.”
With momentum back, Winfield eventually pushed its lead back out to seven, 45-38, on a layup from Emily Hudson with 1:51 remaining.
Winfield out-rebounded Lincoln 37-33 and outscored the Cougars in second chance points, 17-4.
“We couldn’t get stops when we needed them and we couldn’t get rebounds when we needed them,” Hawkins said. “Every time we made a mistake, they took advantage – to their credit. They’re extremely athletic, talented and they made the shots they had to make. They have a very good team.”
It’s the first state tournament appearance for Winfield since 2007. The Generals won Class AA titles in 2004 and 2006.
Lincoln (20-6) made its third straight state tournament appearance – the second straight year with a loss in the quarterfinals. The Cougars on Thursday were led by Halie Hardman and Hope Bray who both scored 11 points apiece.
Winfield moves on to face No. 1 Bluefield at 7:15 p.m. on Friday night.
“Bluefield is No. 1 in the tournament with the best record in AA,” Lucas said. “We were able to watch them play today and they’re a very similar team to Lincoln. They like to press, they’re very athletic and we have a tough matchup (Friday). We’re looking forward to it. It’s a big challenge, but I think that we have a great chance.”