SHORT GAP, W.Va. — The Frankfort girls basketball team wasn’t about to let history repeat itself.
Less than a full year removed from losing a 16-point third-quarter lead and a Class AA semifinal against North Marion, the Falcons found themselves in somewhat of a similar spot Wednesday night while facing the Huskies in a Class AA Region I co-final.
After building a 44-12 halftime lead and taking a 55-29 advantage into the fourth quarter, the Falcons faced some tense times in the final frame.
North Marion trailed 60-44 halfway through the fourth quarter and pulled to within 67-58 in the game’s final minute, but the Falcons were not to be denied on the night of senior guard Abby Beeman’s final home game and pulled out a 71-59 win.
“We knew we had a 16-point lead on them last year in the semifinals and they came back and beat us,” Frankfort coach Michael Miller said. “We knew no lead was safe and they started knocking those 3s down. I didn’t think they were going to get that hot, but we weathered the storm. Hats off to our girls. A lot of people didn’t believe in them, but here we are with another chance down at states.”
Moments after the victory, Frankfort (20-4) found out it is the No. 5 seed in the state tournament and will face No. 4 Lincoln at 9 p.m. on March 7.
The first 10 minutes of the contest made all the difference, with Frankfort building an early 11-2 lead, expanding it to 23-3 after one quarter and then upping it to 31-3 early in the second period.
While the Falcons were doing just about everything right on both ends of the court, North Marion (19-6) was struggling mightily.
Huskies’ coach Mike Parrish called a timeout at the 4:24 mark of the opening quarter following a Macie Miller layup that gave the Falcons the 11-2 lead. However, the break in action did nothing to slow down Frankfort, which reeled off the next six points to go up 17-2 on a Makenna Douthitt follow-up, forcing Parrish to call another timeout at the 1:32 mark.
Ashley Phillps and Beeman each made 3s late in the opening period to allow the Falcons to lead by 20 through eight minutes.
“We wanted to come out here and start fast, because we knew they could score in a hurry,” Beeman said. “That was a great job with our defense, because they are a very good offensive team. But I’m so happy we could get the job done.”
Beeman scored four points early in the second quarter, which combined with four more from Douthitt allowed the Falcons to lead 31-3 against the defending state champions.
The lead grew to 37-5 on consecutive 3s by Miller, and Beeman and Maria Perdew each made a trey later in the quarter to allow Frankfort to lead by 32 at the intermission.
Beeman had 17 first-half points and three of her team’s seven 3s, while the Huskies made only 5-of-24 field goals and had 11 turnovers.
“No matter what we did, they were hitting shots from everywhere,” Parrish said. “We couldn’t hit anything and we were stagnant on offense. We weren’t attacking or going at them, which is what we talked about coming in. We knew they were going to play either a 3-2 or man and our plan was to drive at them and try to score. We passed it around and passed it around and shot, shot, shot and missed, missed, missed.
“That’s been our problem all year. We haven’t had good starts to many games this year and when you come out on the road in a regional game and get down by 32 at halftime, there’s no excuse for it.”
North Marion began to chip away at the deficit to start the second half, scoring the first eight points of the third quarter on 3s by Karlie Denham and Taylor Buonamici and a driving bucket by Hannah Shriver.
Although the Huskies pulled to within 46-26, Beeman scored seven points over the final few minutes of the quarter and nine of her team’s 11 points in the frame to stretch the lead back out to 55-29.
“We knew we wanted revenge from states last year, because we knew we should have had that game,” Beeman said. “We came out here ready to play and making shots and we knew no lead was safe because of that previous experience.“
Beeman started the fourth-quarter scoring with a 3, but the Huskies answered with a 17-2 run to trail 60-46 after Buonamici made a pair of free throws.
Back-to-back 3s by Shriver and Buonamici trimmed a 17-point deficit to 63-52, but the Falcons made 8-of-12 free throws over the remainder of the game to hang on.
“Our girls are playing with a lot confidence and that’s a tribute to Abby and her leadership. That’s what she’s been preaching all week to the girls is to come out and get a quick start,” Miller said. “We felt like if we had a lead and played ahead, our chances were pretty good and that’s what happened.”
Beeman’s 33 points led all players, while she made 11-of-20 field goals and five 3s.
Douthitt added 15 points and a game-high 11 rebounds, while Miller had 13 points in the win.
Buonamici led the Huskies with 20 points.
North Marion defeated Frankfort 88-62 in the regular season meeting between the two teams on Dec. 8.