CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Huntington completed the 2017 girls basketball state tournament on Saturday night with a 72-54 win over Buckhannon-Upshur for the Class AAA championship.
“It’s hard to put into words – it’s been a long time since we’ve won it,” said Huntington coach Lonnie Lucas. “These girls decided when they got to high school that they were going to be state champions.
“It just took them four years to accomplish their goal. I’m proud of them – they’re great kids and great friends,” Lucas continued. “It has just been a super four years. It’s been great and something that they’ll remember for a lifetime. This will never go away.”
It’s the first girls basketball title for the Highlanders (25-3) since 2000.
“We really weren’t supposed to win that year (in 2000),” Lucas said. “But this one happened pretty much the same way. The last one, we started that group as freshman and as they moved up it just kept coming. As seniors, they put it all together. These girls did a great job of doing that.”
A back-and-forth first half led to a 24-24 game at the break — Jordyn Dawson had 17 of those first half points for the Highlanders as Mariah Harmon played only eight minutes due to foul trouble.
“We just wanted to get to halftime without getting anyone in real deep foul trouble,” Lucas said. “We wanted to come out in the second half and put a little more energy out there with just 16 minutes to play. We wanted to go out, play a little bit harder and calm down, basically.”
With Harmon back in the game, Huntington gained some separation in the third, 20-16, to take a 44-40 lead into the fourth.
The game-winning run, though, came at the midway point of the fourth quarter as Buckhannon-Upshur’s Hanna McClung and Makayla Reynolds both picked up their fourth foul apiece. The Highlanders forced four turnovers in a 1:31 span, sparking a 10-0 run for a 56-44 lead and under four minutes remaining.
“I tried to save (McClung) for a few minutes (after she got the fourth foul) to try to get her to calm down and then sneak her back in,” said Buckhannon-Upshur coach Jeremy Maxwell. “But it’s hard to keep a competitor out. There were a few calls here and there that were really a difference in the game.
“(Huntington) does a good job in the press,” he continued. “They pressed us the whole time and only fouling 11 times is pretty good – I maybe need to work on ours a little bit better.”
McClung fouled out with 3:58 to go and Alli Robinson shortly followed as well for the Buccaneers (24-4).
“I don’t think (our run) had a whole lot to do with (McClung) going out,” Lucas said. “At that point, we started to make the big move, but we got a couple of quick steals and converted them to baskets. The intensity jumped up and when it did, it probably wouldn’t have made any difference who was in there.
“But when (McClung) fouled out, that was big as far as getting it on a roll of what they were doing,” he continued. “They just started committing fouls after that, and fortunately we went to the line and made a good percentage of them.”
Dawson scored 28 points and grabbed 12 rebounds, Harmon added 19 points and Lexi Sheffield scored 14 points to lead the Highlanders.
“Earlier on in the game, we were losing, and I’m not trying to lose,” Dawson said. “Something had to happen and I flipped the switch.”
Reynolds led BU with 24 points and McClung was limited to eight points.
Huntington’s win ended a string of title game losses as the school posted runner-up finishes in 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2016.
Dawson, Harmon and Kearsta Turner made the all-tournament team from Huntington, while Reynolds and McClung made the team from Buckhannon-Upshur. South Charleston’s Aaliyah Dunham and Lavender Ward, along with Wheeling Park’s Josie Daugherty also were all-tournament selections.