Huge fourth quarter carries Martinsburg past South Charleston

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Breaking open a game that was tight for three quarters, No. 4 Martinsburg exploded over the final eight minutes to put away No. 5 South Charleston 60-40 in the Class AAA girls quarterfinals.

Martinsburg (20-4) outscored the hometown team 26-7 in the fourth quarter and advanced to play Parkersburg South in the state semifinals on Friday.

“I can’t be more proud of our ladies. They executed our game plan,” Martinsburg coach Wes Hall said. “We told them they needed to play shut-down defense and win the rebounding margin by 10. And we got them by nine.”

The Bulldogs were led by junior Taylor Ferguson’s game-high 22 points—12 over her average.

“We just needed to settle down,” Ferguson said. “We kept stressing ourselves by turning the ball over. Once we calmed down, we played good together.”

Essence Underwood recorded a double-double with 13 points and 14 rebounds, while Alexus Bonner chipped in 11 on 5-of-6 shooting from the field.

“At first I was still nervous, but once we tipped off I was like ‘OK, this is like another game,'” Underwood said. “Just a bigger place and more people.”

Leading scorer Kristen Nunn, who came in averaging 16 points per game, was held to just nine but found other ways to stay involved. Nunn grabbed eight rebounds and dished out a team-high six assists.

The Bulldogs dealt with foul trouble in the first half—when they committed 13 fouls—but overcame that to take a seven-point lead into the half.

“We subbed and we told them to play through it. We still played defense as hard as we ever played,” Hall said. “We go out of the press, because we thought we could play a little better in the halfcourt, and I think it was a good decision.”

South Charleston (20-4), who had its seven game win streak snapped, was paced by Taliah Cashwell’s 14 points, including three 3-pointers.

“We didn’t handle the nerves to begin the game,” South Charleston coach Frank Greene said. “I told the kids they have nothing to be embarrassed about— they gave us all they had all year.”

The Black Eagles used a 13-4 run at the end of the third quarter to cut the lead to 34-33, but ran out of gas and had no answer for the Bulldogs in the fourth.

“None of our shots fell and we had no help defense,” guard Aaliyah Dunham said.

Dunham struggled through 1-of-13 shooting from the field and was held to just four points, though she had five assists and four steals.

The Black Eagles made only 13-of-55 shots, including 3-of-18 from behind the arc.

“You’re not going to win many games, shooting 23 percent,” Greene said. “I don’t know how many shots in the paint we missed. I thought we did a good job attacking their defense, but we have to finish plays.”

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