Tucker County controls second half to eliminate Tolsia, 66-44

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Tucker County was tested by Tolsia for a large portion of Wednesday’s Class A quarterfinal.

Ultimately, the second-seeded Mountain Lions relied on disruptive defense, a decisive size advantage and a balanced scoring attack in putting together a dominant second half to get past the Rebels 66-44 at the Charleston Coliseum.

“The good part about this team is with the experience we have, we’ve just kind of settled in. When we’ve been down, we’ve relaxed and played well,” Tucker County head coach Dave Helmick said.

With the victory, Tucker (20-2) moves on to a semifinal Friday where it will face No. 3 Doddridge County.

Tolsia (17-9) accomplished much of what it hoped to in the opening half thanks in large part to scoring the game’s first eight points. The Rebels settled for a 12-8 advantage after one quarter, and they upped it to nine early in the second courtesy of a jumper from Emily Artrip and Kergian Salmons’ three-pointer.

“We knew we had to get off to a good start,” Tolsia head coach Ric Morrone said. “Seven seeds haven’t fared well this week and we wanted to change that.”

From that point forward, the Mountain Lions responded, starting with a 6-0 spurt that featured consecutive baskets from Ericka Zirk and a Kadie Colebank layup.

The Rebels led 20-16, before Colebank scored inside and Addie Hicks made two free throws to tie the game. TCHS then gained its first lead when Zirk made two free throws 10 seconds before halftime, though Autumn Block scored in response to send the game to halftime tied at 22.

“Being tied at halftime, I felt we had the advantage, because we’d played bad and were still right in it,” Helmick said. “We wanted to be more patient on offense and try to do a better job defensively. What else can I say about this team? Just an excellent job.”

Despite being undersized, the Rebels went to halftime with a 22-20 rebounding advantage, much of which could be credited to Block’s 10 boards.

“Nobody expected us to come out the way we did, but we’ve been working,” Block said.

Tolsia continued to play Tucker even over the first 5-plus of the second half, and the Rebels led 30-29 on Block’s two free throws at the 3:37 mark of the third quarter.

However, Macy Helmick countered with a triple to put the Mountain Lions in front for good and start what amounted to a 13-2 run over the final 3:11 of the frame.

After Zirk scored inside for a four-point lead, Helmick hit another trey. Avery Colebank’s layup made it a nine-point margin, and a conventional three-point play from Raven Matthews extended the advantage to 12 before Salmons scored to trim the Rebels deficit to 42-32 through three quarters.

“Tonight we showed that we’re really a team and that when we have each other’s backs we can win ball games,” Macy Helmick said. “That’s what we’re here for.”

The Mountain Lions carried the momentum over to the fourth quarter and began it with nine straight points to open the contest up.

Matthews hit a jumper to start the fourth-quarter scoring, Katie Hicks followed with a three, and after Kadie Colebank made two free throws, Zirk’s layup left TCHS with a 51-32 advantage and 5:06 remaining.

“Their size got the better of us in the second half,” Morrone said. “Once they stretched it out, they know how to close games.”

Zirk led all players with 19 points and it came on 8-for-10 shooting. She also added 10 rebounds.

“One of the [Tolsia] girls said, ‘we’re in a pickle, my coach said we had to worry about 41 [Kadie Colebank]. It was nice to show other teams I can do that,” Zirk said.

Coach Helmick was impressed to see the 5-foot-10 junior shine on the big stage.

“Ericka Zirk steps up with a career high in Charleston,” he said. “How about that?”

Kadie Colebank made only 3-of-14 shots but was still a significant contributor with 10 points, 10 boards and eight blocks.

“I just really focused on my defense and trying to get the ball back for us so we could have more opportunities to score,” she said. “I was trying to make my presence known in the paint. I knew Tolsia liked to drive the ball and I wanted to try to make them shoot the ball from the perimeter.”

Helmick scored 14 points to go with six assists and Matthews scored eight off the bench.

TCHS made 14-of-28 field-goal attempts over the final two quarters after going 8 for 28 in the first half.

Salmons scored a team-high 14 points and Artrip added 12. Block held her own down low and totaled 10 points, 15 rebounds, five assists, four blocks and three steals.

Both teams had 12 turnovers and the Mountain Lions were plus-10 in rebounding over the final two quarters to win the battle of the boards, 44-36.

“I was happy with the start,” Morrone said. “It was the finish that got away from us.”

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