CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Ashley Morris led Williamstown to another tournament upset on Thursday as the No. 6 Yellowjackets eliminated No. 2 Wheeling Central 65-59 in the girls basketball semifinals.
Morris scored 34 points and led Williamstown (21-5) back from a 12-point second quarter deficit.
“It has been unbelievable,” Morris said. “It has been our goal (to get to the championship game). We’ve had a really tough region the last three years – and it’s still tough, but we were able to get out of it. It just means everything to be here and to be able to play in the state championship.”
The Yellowjackets got to the foul line throughout, especially in the fourth quarter, overall going 27 of 42 from the charity stripe. Those 42 free throw attempts set a new Class A state tournament record, surpassing the 37 free throws attempted by Mullens back in 1984.
“That’s the way we survive,” said Williamstown coach Fred Sauro. “In many of the games that we have won this year, it has been because we’ve gone to the foul line. We didn’t use to be a good foul shooting team, but these guys have hit some really clutch foul shots for us at the end of games.”
Williamstown’s defensive pressure wasn’t as effective early – like it was earlier in the week in the win over No. 3 Tucker County – but that led to a defensive adjustment from Sauro’s club.
The Yellowjackets forced 12 turnovers on Friday – 14 fewer than their quarterfinal victory.
“We couldn’t pressure them as well as some teams because they have some really good guards,” Sauro said. “We decided to change our defense and went to a half-court defense. That kept them at bay and allowed us to make-up 11 or 12 points off of the lead they had.”
Wheeling Central (25-2) led 33-24 at the break behind Taylor Duplaga’s 15 first half points. A 3 from Morris as time expired in the third quarter, though, cut Williamstown’s deficit to 44-42 heading into the fourth.
“I don’t know how that one went in,” Morris said. “I kind of just threw it up as the clock was winding down – but it went in and it did give it momentum and I think that’s what changed the game. We knew we could come back even though we were down.”
Off of that momentum, the Yellowjackets took the lead, 45-44, at the 7:06 mark of the fourth quarter on a pair of free throws from Victoria Clark. A 7-0 run for Williamstown pushed its lead out to 53-46 with 5:06 remaining. A layup from Samantha Dedrick gave the Yellowjackets a nine-point cushion, 59-50, with under four minutes to play.
Dedrick totaled 16 points on the day for Williamstown. Duplaga finished with 23 points to lead the Maroon Knights in the loss.
Williamstown will face either Summers County or St. Joseph Central on Saturday at noon for the Class A title.
It’s the first trip to the state title game for Williamstown since 2003 when the Yellowjackets beat Wheeling Central for the Class A championship.