CHARLESTON, W.Va. – No. 3 Tucker County is making its return to the Class A girls basketball semifinals for the first time since 2015 after a 66-35 win over No. 6 Magnolia on Thursday morning.
The Mountain Lions (24-1), in their 14th straight state tournament appearance, were led by senior guard Sydney Nestor who scored 22 points on 7 of 16 shooting.
“I thought after the first couple of minutes we played pretty good,” said Tucker County coach Dave Helmick. “That’s been our plan all year, playing great man defense, trying to get up in their face and turn people over.”
Tucker County ended the game with 33 more shots than Magnolia and scored 37 points off of 33 forced turnovers.
“That’s a good stat, but the best stat that I look at is the other side – we only turned the ball over eight times,” Helmick said. “Probably four of those were in the first two minutes.
“We think we’re going to get turnovers from the other team,” he continued. “But controlling the ball, being more patient and not turning the ball over (ourselves) is one of the focuses we had coming into this year.”
Tucker County made three straight trips to the semifinals from 2013-2015, but suffered quarterfinal setbacks over the last two years.
“We were a little anxious because we’ve not had a very good run (at the state tournament) the last two years,” Nestor said. “But we’ve been having a really good year together and we’ve been trying to do more bonding activities. We were ready. We came in and knew what we had to do, because we don’t want to go out like we did the last two years.”
The Mountain Lions are looking for their first trip to the state championship game since winning the Class AA title back in 1998.
Mady Winters scored 16 points for Magnolia (16-10) in the loss. Sophomore Kyndra Pilant, though, had a double-double, finishing with 14 points and an impressive 22 rebounds – one rebound shy of tying the Class A state tournament record for an individual game.
“She’s been our leading rebounder all year,” said Magnolia coach Meredith Pilant. “She has had 18 double-doubles, two triple-doubles, but her performance today was phenomenal. Even though she’s a sophomore, she is our captain. We’ve looked to her as a leader all year.”
The Blue Eagles are a young team overall and return all but one senior for next year.
Tucker County, meanwhile, moves into the semifinals and will face either Wheeling Central or Trinity Friday at 11:15 a.m.