CHARLESTON, W.Va. — In large part because it possesses one of the state’s prolific scorers in Ana Young, Pendleton County is anything but the typical No. 8 seed.
Defending Class A state champion and top seed Cameron found out in the opening half of Tuesday’s state quarterfinal at the Charleston Coliseum.
Young scored 15 of her team’s 18 first-quarter points and went to halftime with 20 to help keep the Wildcats within striking distance as they trailed, 34-29.
The third quarter, however, was a different story for a Cameron team that regained its focus at the intermission and used a 17-2 spurt over the first 4 minutes of the second half to pull away for a 79-59 victory.
“We knew what we were getting into,” Dragons’ head coach Holly Pettit said. “They were under the radar a little bit this year. Young is a great basketball player. The first half showed how good of a basketball team they are. In the third quarter, out girls came out and played basketball like how we know how.”
The win moves the Dragons (20-6) into a Friday semifinal against No. 5 Webster County, which won earlier Tuesday against Greenbrier West.
While 6-foot-2 junior Ashlynn Van Tassell was her usual dominant self on the interior in finishing with 36 points and 21 rebounds, Pettit felt her team began to assume complete control of the contest by hitting from the perimeter early in the second half.
Ashlee Dobbs opened the third-quarter scoring with a three-pointer for an eight-point CHS lead, and after Avery Townsend’s jumper allowed the Wildcats (15-7) too trail by six, Dobbs hit from behind the arc for a second time over the first 49 seconds of the third quarter.
Dobbs’ second trey began a stretch of 14 straight points for Cameron, which then got two free throws and a layup from Maci Neely to lead, 44-31.
“Ashlee Dobbs hit a couple key threes,” Pettit said. “We talked about penetrating and if that Ashlynn wasn’t open, kicking the ball outside and we were able to do that.”
Out of a media timeout, Dobbs drilled her third three of the half, and Van Tassell followed with consecutive field goals that allowed Cameron to lead by 20 at the 4:07 mark of the quarter.
Cameron hardly slowed down the remainder of the quarter, during which it made 12-of-15 field-goal attempts, including Gracie Carter’s trey and Van Tassell’s layup for a 66-40 lead entering the fourth.
“We were able to relax after halftime and just kind of fell into our groove,” Van Tassell said.
Young, meanwhile, scored nine third-quarter points, accounting for all of her team’s offensive production in the period outside of Townsend’s bucket 38 seconds into the second half.
Young scored 14 more points in the final quarter, but Cameron led by no less than 20 in the fourth. Young finished with a game-high 43 points on 17-for-30 shooting. She made half of her 12 three-point attempts.
“She’s meant a lot to out program,” Pendleton coach Micah Bailey said. “She’s a very special player. She’s put in a lot of work and time and that shows. She’s a great leader. If there was any doubt in her abilities, she showed what she’s capable of today.”
Pettit wasn’t surprised to see Young’s strong output against her squad.
“She’s a stud,” Pettit said. “We told the girls coming in here she’s legit. You can play the best defense on her and she’s still going to score. We knew she was going to do what she does. I think they were under the radar as a basketball team.”
Cameron got off to a strong start and led 15-5 on a Neely triple before PCHS settled in. The Wildcats responded with the next seven points on layups from Young and Townsend and Young’s three, and they eventually tied the game at 17 before trailing 19-18 entering the second quarter.
While Pendleton County never led, it was within five points throughout the entire second period, and pulled to within three on two Lizzie Alt free throws before Van Tassell’s follow-up bucket sent Cameron to halftime with a five-point lead.
“We had a really good first half,” Bailey said. “They came out in the third and those first two threes opened it up and brought us down a little bit.”
Van Tassell made 15-of22 field-goal attempts and 6-of-9 foul shots. Six of her 21 boards were of the offensive variety.
Neely added 17 points and seven steals, Dobbs scored nine with five assists and point guard Kenzie Clutter had 11 of her team’s 21 assists and added six points.
“We forced a lot of things in the first half. The third quarter once we got into our groove, we never turned back,” Clutter said.
Townsend was Pendleton’s second-leading scorer with eight points.
The Wildcats had 15 turnovers to the Dragons’ 17, but Cameron held a 42-23 rebounding edge.
“We knew they had more talent than us,” Young said, “and our goal was to have more effort and hustle and beat them running the court.”