CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Class A No. 6 Trinity had no matchup for Magnolia’s 6-foot-3 center Madi Winters in Wednesday’s quarterfinal at the Charleston Coliseum & Convention Center.
Fortunately for Warriors’ coach Mike Baldy, his team had an answer for just about everything else, along with guard Reagan Sharp to rely on.
Sharp scored 40 points and added 10 steals to help Trinity overcome Winters’ 45-point effort, leading the Warriors to a 65-57 win over No. 3 Magnolia in the opening game of the state tournament.
“All season we’ve wanted to be a halfcourt man to man team and over the past month we have seen that we want to let the girls get out and run,” Baldy said. “We pressed the entire game and it paid off for us today.”
With the win, Trinity will take on No. 2 Parkersburg Catholic at 9:30 a.m. Friday in a semifinal.
Although Trinity (18-8) led for the entirety of the second half, there were plenty of tense moments for the Warriors down the stretch.
The Warriors were on top 53-42 with 5:21 remaining, before Winters scored eight straight points to bring the Blue Eagles (17-9) to within three with 2:25 left.
“We know where our strengths are and we try to play to our strengths,” Magnolia coach Meredith Pilant said.
Sharp answered with a bucket, but Magnolia’s Kyndra Pilant converted a conventional three-point play at the 1:57 mark to trim her team’s deficit to two.
Sharp answered with two free throws with 1:34 left, then had the key play of the contest when she stole the ensuing inbound pass and converted a layup to give her team a six-point lead with 1:30 on the clock.
A jump shot from Pilant allowed Magnolia to get to within 60-57, but Sharp made 5-of-6 free throws over the final 35 seconds to preserve the win.
“I’ve been in that spot a lot,” Sharp said. “I’ve struggled from the foul line a lot this season, but today I kept thinking if this one doesn’t go in it could be the last one I ever shoot.”
Sharp scored 11 first-quarter points to allow her team to hold a 14-11 lead.
The Warriors’ supporting cast stepped up in the second quarter and Jaclyn Smith and Kaylie Laskody connected on back-to-back 3s to turn what bad been a six-point Warriors’ lead into a 29-17 advantage 2:45 before halftime.
However, Winters scored 10 points over the remainder of the first half to pull the Blue Eagles to within 34-27 at halftime.
While Trinity got 18 first-half points from Sharp and made six 3s as a team, Winters had all but four of her team’s points at the intermission on 10-of-11 shooting to go with nine rebounds.
“We came out really strong and our game plan was to speed up their guards,” Sharp said. “Our effort on defense turned into easy buckets on offense and in our halfcourt offense, everybody moved around well and got open.”
Sharp made 13-of-22 field goal attempts and added five assists.
“We prepared all week for her and knew what kind of player she was, but it’s hard to simulate a player like Reagan Sharp,” coach Pilant said. “She shot well, played great defense and she’s the leader on that team.”
Trinity’s Leighton Croft scored 10 points.
Winters made 20-of-23 field-goal attempts, added 12 rebounds and surpassed 1,000 career points despite being a sophomore.
Pilant narrowly missed a double with nine points and a game-high 15 rebounds.
Although Magnolia out-rebounded Trinity 37-25, the Warriors finished with 11 offensive rebounds and forced 24 turnovers.
Trinity also outscored the Blue Eagles 21-0 from 3-point range.
“That’s a fantastic stat and I love that,” Baldy said. “We knew we have really good on ball defenders and if that we could get up and defend the ball we could stop them from shooting.”