WESTON, W.Va. — Over two regular season meetings, Sissonville had little luck slowing down Lewis County.
Though the Indians were competitive in both contests, they allowed 71 points in a one-point season-opening setback to the Minutemaids, and 56 in a 14-point loss less than three weeks later.
More than two months later, the two teams met again Friday night in the Class AAA Region III, Section 2 title game at LCHS.
This time around, the Indians, largely utilizing a 3-2 matchup zone, had great success slowing down Lewis County and held the Minutemaids to 10 field goals to prevail 37-30 and claim a sectional championship.
“We played a lot of man in the previous two matchups, but about halfway through the season, we switched to a 3-2 matchup zone and with our length, it gives teams some fits,” Sissonville head coach Chad McClanahan said. “It looks like a zone but we have matchup principles out of it, so it’s kind of a tough defense to attack. Luckily, tonight it worked well. We were worried about their speed. Lewis has a ton of speed and they do a good job of penetrating and kicking, so we had the girls work on staying outside on the shooters.”
The win allows Sissonville (13-10) to stay home Wednesday and welcome Westside for a Region III co-final, while Lewis County (18-6) will play at PikeView in the other Region III co-final.
Defense was the calling card for Sissonville throughout the night. After the Minutemaids’ Ella Pinkney opened the scoring with two free throws, the Indians countered with 10 unanswered points, getting four apiece from Kynadee Britton and Haley Jarrett during that stretch.
Not until Bryn Hunt’s driving bucket 6:30 into the contest did the Minutemaids manage a field goal, and that was their only one of an opening quarter that finished with them trailing, 10-4.
“The girls played their hearts out and I didn’t put them in a good enough position to win,” Lewis County head coach Joe Nichols said. “All credit to Sissonville. The beauty of it is we still have a chance Wednesday. We have to get back in Monday, refocus and go at it.”
Lewis County’s Hope Dever accounted for the first basket of the second quarter with a three-pointer that allowed her team to trail 11-7, but Britton scored the next two buckets on driving layups to give the visitors an eight-point lead.
Britton added two more field goals from close range over the remainder of the opening half, which she finished with 12 points, including all but one of her team’s nine points in the second quarter. Britton’s play was instrumental in Sissonville leading 19-11 at halftime as she managed one more point than the entire Minutemaids’ team, which made made only 3-of-20 shots over the first two quarters.
“We knew what they were going to do and we tried to prepare them, but I failed them. It’s as simple as that,” Nichols said.
Despite struggling to score, the Minutemaids remained well within striking distance to start the second half, and they promptly cut their deficit in half courtesy of back-to-back field goals from Pinkney.
Pinkney had another layup a short time later that trimmed Sissonville’s lead to 20-17, but Britton’s driving bucket at the 3:26 mark of the third allowed SHS to lead by five.
The Indians ultimately built their lead back to eight at 28-20, before the Minutemaids pulled to within six on Payten Goodwin’s follow-up, allowing them to enter the fourth quarter trailing by two possessions.
Goodwin scored off her steal to bring LCHS to within four less than 2 minutes into the fourth. Leading 29-24, Sissonville got its only fourth-quarter field goals from Madison McCutcheon, whose driving basket left the visitors with a seven-point lead.
But Goodwin split two free throws and then hit a three-pointer with 2:45 remaining to score eight straight points for her team, which trailed 31-28 with 2:45 left.
Pinkney’s two free throws with 1:31 left allowed Lewis County to close its deficit to one — the closest it had been since trailing 4-2.
With 1:15 to play, McCutcheon missed the front end of a 1-and-1, but teammate Ava Hillabold corralled a critical offensive rebound that helped lead to Jarrett making two free throws for a three-point lead with 56 seconds.
The Indians never allowed LCHS to score again, and Jarrett made two more free throws with 18 seconds left for a five-point lead.
“At any time, we can have three or four sophomores on the floor, so it’s big for a senior to help us close the game out and make big free throws,” McClanahan said. “You couldn’t ask for a better scenario for Haley.”
Britton wrapped up the win by making two foul shots with 9 seconds to play, and she led all players with 19 points, while making 7-of-10 shots and 5-of-6 free throws.
“If we need a bucket, she’s going to get us a bucket. She’s put the team on her shoulders when she needs to and that’s what good players do,” McClanahan said.
Jarrett scored 10 points and made all six of her free throws.
The Indians won without making a three and they held the Minutemaids to less than 20 percent (10 for 52) shooting.
Pinkney finished 13 points and nine rebounds in a losing effort.
“Our shots didn’t go when we needed them to,” Nichols said. “We didn’t execute down the stretch.”