University edges Bridgeport 47-43 to secure home-court advantage in sectional

BRIDGEPORT, W.Va. — University girls basketball coach Nick Lusk hoped the Hawks would force the ball out of Bridgeport point guard Gabby Reep’s hands as often as possible when the two teams battled Monday at BHS.

In the first half, it didn’t happen as frequently as Lusk wanted it to, and Reep scored 12 points to key the Indians to a 28-22 halftime lead.

Over the final two quarters, however, the Hawks picked up their defensive pressure and consistently applied a double team on Reep. In turn, University held Bridgeport’s standout point guard without a field goal and to four points, which was imperative in the Hawks rallying for an important 47-43 victory.

“That was the plan from the beginning. We just didn’t come out with that effort from the start,” Lusk said. “We came out in the second half and played a lot better defensively, but she’s good and she’s going to get hers. We have to get it out of her hands and we didn’t do that in the first half at all.” 

In a matchup of Class AAAA Region I, Section 2 foes that now have identical records, University (13-7) secured home-court advantage in the four-team section that also features Bridgeport (13-7), Buckhannon-Upshur and Preston.

The Hawks went to halftime trailing by six, and the deficit grew to eight early in the third quarter when Reep made two free throws.

However, Emily Sharkey scored the next five points on a 3-pointer and fallaway jumper to make it a one-possession deficit, and Sharkey’s two free throws at the 2:21 mark of the quarter allowed UHS to trail by one.

“At halftime, I was saying, ‘If you want to be your home for your section, then you have to come out and play,’” Lusk said. “If not, then we can come back down here, because that’s what’s going to happen if you don’t come out and play. We came out and played.”

When Ella Simpson followed by making a jump shot, the Hawks led 31-30, though they ultimately surrendered their first and only field goal of the frame when Bridgeport’s Emily Anderson beat the third-quarter buzzer with a layup.

Anderson opened the fourth-quarter scoring with another basket from close range, and after Lyla Byers answered with a triple to tie the contest at 34, the Indians went back in front courtesy of Haylee Pryor’s layup.

Simpson made 3-of-4 free throws over a stretch of 51 seconds to put UHS on top 37-36, before Reep made 1-of-2 foul shots to knot the game again.

Sharkey then stepped up and connected on a trey to put UHS in front by three, before Jaylin Dodd scored on a short leaner to bring Bridgeport back to within a point.

With just inside 2 minutes remaining, Simpson made a challenged shot on a drive to the basket to put her team back in front by three.

“We rely on Ella,” Lusk said. “She’s our go to and when we need a bucket, we know we can go to her and we can go to Hannah [Stemple], and they’re going to get us something.”

The Hawks’ lead was still three after Sharkey split two free throws with 34 seconds left. The one she missed was rebounded by Reep, who continued to draw the bulk of the Hawks’ attention and found an open Madalyn Amick on the wing for a tying triple with 24 seconds remaining.

However, after Stemple received in the inbound pass, Reep was whistled for a foul that sent Stemple to the free-throw line. She made both foul shots with 20 seconds left for a 45-43 advantage, and Dodd was whistled for a travel on the ensuing possession.

“We made some other mental errors at the end of the game,” Bridgeport coach Herman Pierson said. 

With 10 seconds remaining, Eden Gibson made 1-of-2 free throws, and Sharkey corralled the offensive rebound from the miss, before she made one free throw with 9 seconds for the final margin.

“She played excellent, but she’s a great leader for us,” Lusk said of Sharkey. “She’s always been that. This offseason, she really bought in and she’s been fantastic.”

The Indians led 16-13 after one quarter, and Reep and Dodd, who combined for 24 first-half points, accounted for their team’s final eight points of the half to turn what had been a 20-18 advantage into a six-point halftime lead.

Simpson scored 16 points and Sharkey added 12. Byers was a key contributor in the win with eight points and a team-high eight rebounds.

Reep finished with 16 points, eight assists and six rebounds. Dodd added 14 points and five rebounds, while Anderson contributed eight points in defeat.

Amick’s tying 3 was Bridgeport’s only one. The Tribe were also responsible for 17 of the game’s 25 turnovers.

“We made some bad judgment on what to do with the ball and in the last four minutes of the game, we didn’t do a very good job,” Pierson said. “We weren’t patient enough on offense and threw the ball away two or three times. We missed a free throw that would’ve made a difference. We didn’t block out on a free throw. 

“We played a good game, so I can’t complain. We did a lot of things that I can certainly take away as a positive, but in close games against good teams, you can’t make those kinds of mistakes, and they’ve heard it from me all year.” 

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