CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Class AAA No. 2 Greenbrier East struggled for much of Wednesday’s quarterfinal against No. 7 Huntington.
Yet when it mattered most, the Spartans delivered with their backs against the wall, outscoring the Highlanders 19-10 in the fourth quarter to rally for a 54-50 victory at the Charleston Coliseum & Convention Center.
“They did things today that they normally don’t do, but at one of the timeouts I looked right at them and said great teams always find a way to win when they’re playing bad,” GE coach Jim Justice said. “We just had to find a way to win and at the end of the day, that’s exactly what we did.”
The victory allows Greenbrier East to advance to a semifinal at 9 p.m. Friday against the winner of Thursday’s contest between No. 3 University and No. 6 Martinsburg.
Trailing 47-42, the Spartans (23-3) got a 3-pointer from Abbie Bartenslager to cut their deficit to two with 4:29 left.
“It was really exciting, especially being a senior,” Bartenslager said. “I didn’t want this to end and I was putting everything out there that I could.”
Haley McClure tied the game with a layup, but an Alezha Turner jumper put Huntington (15-11) back in front.
However, the Highlanders went the final 2:35 without a field goal, and Bartenslager tied it at 49 with a jumper, before giving the Spartans the lead with another 3 at the 1:27 mark.
“It was a real sigh of relief but we all had confidence in her,” McClure said. “We knew she could make it. We hadn’t played our best but she came through when we needed her.”
Latahia Jackson made 1-of-2 free throws for HHS to cut the Greenbrier East lead to 52-50 with 1:14 remaining, but McClure’s layup with 50 seconds to play proved to be the game’s final points.
“I’m real proud of these young ladies and the whole team for getting here,” Huntington coach Lonnie Lucas said. “I thought we left it all on the floor. We knew we had to have an excellent game to pull it out and we almost did. Even sitting here as the first ones interviewed on the losing side, it’s still better than being home.”
The Spartans looked as though they were in control early after building an 8-0 lead, only to scoreless over the next 6:48 as the Highlanders scored 17 unanswered points.
Huntington led 26-21 with 2:53 to play in the opening half, but the Spartans used a 6-0 run to close the half with a one-point lead.
After an Autumn Hill started the third-quarter scoring to put the Spartans up by three, Huntington responded with an 8-0 run that helped it take a 40-35 lead into the fourth quarter.
That five-point lead grew to be nine after consecutive field goals from Madison Slash, but Emma Dotson answered with a 3 and McClure scored inside to set the stage for the thrilling finish.
“I told them now we’re in a situation where it’s do or die,” Justice said. “We’ve played the toughest schedule in the state and we’ve lost three games. It was time for us to play. I said it’s time for us to win the game and don’t be afraid. Right now is the time for us to be what got you here.”
McClure finished with 16 points, seven rebounds and five blocks while battling foul trouble throughout.
Amya Damon added 10 points in the win, while Bartenslager scored all eight of her points in the fourth quarter and added eight rebounds. Dotson was also a key contributor in the victory with eight points and nine rebounds.
Slash and Jackson each scored 14 points to lead the Highlanders, while Slash led all players with 16 rebounds, including 11 on the offensive end.