Parkersburg South holds off Hedgesville, 77-66

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Parkersburg South struggled to separate itself from Hedgesville for much of Tuesday’s Class AAAA quarterfinal.

Ultimately, the Patriots’ ability to capitalize at the free-throw line and capitalize on turnovers ruled out in a 77-66 victory over the Eagles at the Charleston Coliseum.

“That was a war and a battle. They were the hardest team to prepare for that we’ve faced this season,” Patriots’ head coach Mike Fallon said. “You didn’t know what to expect. Was he going to take the air out of the ball, do this or do that? We prepared for a bunch of different scenarios.”

No. 3 Parkersburg South never trailed in the second half, but the sixth-seeded Eagles (20-6) did just enough to stay within striking distance for much of the matchup.

“We had some ups and downs during the season and I was extremely pleased with our kids resiliency,” Hedgesville head coach Kelly Church said. “It’s something we had to work on. I was proud of our resiliency during this game. We started to do that toward the end of the season.“

The Patriots (20-6) scored the final five points of the first half, including a conventional three-point play from Cole Joy, and turned a one-point deficit into a 30-26 halftime lead.

When PSHS scored eight unanswered points over the opening half of the third quarter, the Eagles were left facing a 44-32 deficit at the 4:05 mark of the third quarter.

Hedgesville, however ran off the last five points of that frame courtesy of a Cam Wilkes triple and Te Wilmer’s layup after he stole an inbound pass and drove to the basket for a bucket, bringing HHS to within 46-39 entering the fourth.

“We’d get up 12 and then it’d be six. Their kids hit huge shots,” Fallon said. “It didn’t seem like they missed in the second half from the three-point line.”

Jaxson Ruest hit a trey early in the fourth that allowed Hedgesville to momentarily trail by six, but Jackson Smith answered by connecting from long range to put the Patriots back up nine.

When Cyrus Traugh scored in the paint with 6:28 to play, the Patriots had regained their 12-point advantage at 54-42.

But the Eagles refused to give in. Christian Bolduc and Damon Cook made triples 43 seconds apart to cut Hedgesville’s deficit in half and keep hope alive.

“You’re on that Civic Center floor, the lights are bright and some things aren’t going your way. It’s easy to pack up your tent and go home,” Church said. “It’s never been my mentality and I didn’t want it to be our kids’ mentality either.”

The Patriots answered with two free throws from Aiden Blake, two more from Austin Reeves and Smith’s fast break layup to go back in front by a dozen with 3:29 left.

Bolduc countered with two triples to again make it a six-point game, but the Eagles never got the deficit inside of six down the stretch.

PSHS 6-foot-8 center Nathan Plotner helped punctuate the victory by throwing down a pair of dunks in the final 2:04, the first of which created a 64-56 lead, and the latter of which allowed the Patriots to lead 70-61 with 1:20 left.

“He just keeps growing and getting better,” Fallon said of Plotner. “We’ve never had a big guy back there like that — a 6-8 kid in the back that can cause some havoc.”

A tightly contested opening quarter saw PSHS lead 14-13, before the Patriots ran off the first five points of the second.

Beginning with Te Wilmer’s triple 4:55 before halftime, however, Hedgesville outscored Parkersburg South 12-6 over a span of 2:41 and led 26-25 when Cook converted a layup 2:14 before the break.

The Eagles never scored again in the half and ultimately trailed by four halfway through.

Parkersburg South made 30-of-37 free throws, including 18 of 22 down the stretch as Church’s team pressured down the stretch and sent the Patriots to the charity stripe in an effort to extend the game.

Reeves, who made 13-of-14 foul shots, led PSHS with 19 points. 

“He’s been that solid guy all year guy and kind of the unsung hero,” Fallon said. “The last two weeks, Austin has really taken that next step. For him to do that is kind of cool. We weren’t sure he would ever do that.” 

Traugh added 15 to go with a game-high nine rebounds before fouling out.

“It’s a big game and a cool experience, but you have to worry about yourself. It’s not about the moment or the other team,” Traugh said. “It’s about your team and what you can do.”

Blake scored 13 and make all six of his foul shots, while Smith and Plotner contributed 10 points apiece to make it five starters in double figures.

The Patriots won the battle of the boards 32-27 and had nine turnovers to Hedgesville’s 12. Parkersburg South finished with a 21-9 advantage in points off turnovers.

“We haven’t averaged turning teams over as much, but we’ve changed the press to speed you up some and it wears on legs,” Fallon said. “We don’t worry so much about steals.” 

Wilkes appeared to turn his ankle late in the first half and came up hobbling, but returned to play in the second half. He led all players with 22 points.

”I was a little worried when I went into the locker room. I got it taped up and was ready to go,” Wilkes said.

Bolduc added 11 points, while Cook and Stephon Barclay contributed 10 apiece. The Eagles made 9-of-20 triples but only 7-of-14 free throws, including 2 of 7 over the first two quarters.

Parkersburg South will face the winner of No. 2 George Washington/No. 7 Jefferson in a semifinal Thursday.

“All you hear about is Eastern Panhandle basketball is down. Hedgesvillei is pretty darn good,” Fallon said. “They’re hard to get a read on. It was kind of like today. They’d play well in spurts and then go dry on offense. It was a hard team to prepare for. Give coach Church credit. He’s done this for a while. Their kids just do what they need to do to win.” 

(Parkersburg South postgame press conference)





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