CHARLESTON — As the final buzzer sounded Saturday night at the Charleston Civic Center, the faces of the Buckhannon-Upshur girls displayed the reality that a historic-making season had came one victory short of a Class AAA state title.
For 32 minutes against top-seed Huntington, the Lady Bucs had scrapped, battled and gave everything they had to reach a goal those outside of the program didn’t think was possible. They were determined to not leave the Civic Center without the school’s first-ever girls basketball championship and add another chapter in their magical journey.
But in the end, it was the Lady Highlanders using a late surge from the free-throw line to pull away for a 72-54 victory in a game much closer than the final score would indicate.
“The girls battled all the way and we knew the effort would be there,” said B-U coach Jeremy Maxwell. “I know the girls are hurting right now and it will hurt for a while, but they showed [tonight] they are one of the top teams in the state and belonged here.
“We have a strong group coming back and expect us to be here again. We just want to take home a different plaque than the one we got this year.”
The contest was tied on seven different occasions, including a 24-24 deadlock at the intermission.
B-U trailed 13-10 after one quarter before scoring the first eight points of the second frame to open up an 18-13 lead after a basket by Lauren Louk with 5:50 left in the first half. A pair of free throws from fellow senior Makayla Reynolds later helped the Lady Bucs maintain a four-point cushion, at 24-20, before Huntington answered with four straight points from the state’s reigning player of the year Jordyn Dawson to tie the game at the break.
Dawson, an Xavier signee, would lead all scorers with 28 points to go along with 12 rebounds, three assists and four steals.
The see-saw affair continued in the third quarter as the game remained tied at 32-32 with 4:52 left in the stanza.
A layup by Mariah Harman, however, gave Huntington it’s largest lead (40-36) with 2:46 remaining until sophomore Alli Robinson drained two free throws to cut the lead to 41-40. A key 3-pointer by Lexi Sheffield again pushed the Huntington lead to four, at 44-40, after three quarters.
The Lady Bucs battled foul trouble the entire evening, including to standout junior point guard and leading scorer Hanna McClung, who was forced to the bench with 6:30 left after being whistled for her fourth foul.
B-U only trailed by two, though, after Reynolds knocked down a jumper to make it 46-44 with 6:13 remaining.
But with the opportunity to take the lead or tie the game on their next offensive possession, the Lady Bucs misfired on a 3-pointer and pair of close putbacks and the momentum swung to and remained with the Lady Highlanders the remainder of the game.
“We certainly had our chances in the fourth quarter, especially on that sequence,” Maxwell said. “We just couldn’t get the shots to fall and give credit to Huntington. They have a great team and they made the plays when they needed them.”
The Lady Highlanders then broke open the game with a 12-0 spurt to take a 56-44 advantage. To make matters worse, McClung was whistled for her fifth foul on a questionable call when she outhustled a Huntington player for a loose ball.
B-U was called for 27 fouls on the night compared to just 11 for the Lady Highlanders.
“The foul situation got to the point we couldn’t fight back from it,” Maxwell said. “We lose both Hanna and Alli with their fifth fouls and our other starters were also in foul trouble.”
Huntington sealed the deal from the free-throw line, hitting 12 of their attempts over the final three minutes.
“We knew we were going to be in for a battle,” said Huntington coach Lonnie Lucas. “But we saw a situation in the fourth quarter where we could make a run and we did.”
Reynolds capped her career for the Lady Bucs by netting 24 points, missing just six field-goal attempts and draining all six of her free throws.
“We had no matchup for her,” Lucas said of Reynolds. “We had a freshman guarding her and it looked like a freshman trying to guard a talented senior.”
McClung and Robinson added eight points each for B-U, while Lauren Bennett tallied six points, six rebounds and four assists.
Harmon followed Dawson in the scoring column for the Lady Highlanders with 19 points.
B-U, which loses Reynolds, Louk and Tatiyana Caesar to graduation, finished the season with a sparkling 24-4 record.
“When (the girls) look back on the season, they should be proud,” said Maxwell, who also lost in a state title game when he was a player at Tucker County. “I told them, because I know firsthand, it’s going to hurt. But this program has come a long way. Our seniors won maybe six games as freshmen and tonight they played for a state championship, and they are a big part of it.”
Huntington (25-3) claimed its first state title since 2000. The Lady Highlanders defeated B-U that season in the semifinals en route to the championship.
B-U 49, Wheeling Park 27
Second-seed Buckhannon-Upshur rode a fast start and smothering defensive effort in the second half to cruise past No. 6 Wheeling Park, 49-27, Friday night in semifinal action at the Charleston Civic Center.
The victory put the Lady Bucs (24-3) into their first-ever state title appearance.
B-U bolted out to a 10-0 lead behind senior forward Makayla Reynolds, who scored six of her team-high points during the early surge.
Reynolds, who didn’t play when the teams met earlier this season (a 45-43 Park win) due to a broken foot, also grabbed six rebounds on the night.
“It’s huge for us to get off to a good start,” B-U third-year coach Jeremy Maxwell said. “If we can build a double-digit lead early, it kind of ruins the other team’s game plan.”
After the Lady Patriots went on a 6-2 mini run, junior sharpshooter McKinley Gaudet answered with back-to-back 3-pointers to push the Lady Buc lead back out to 12, at 18-6, with 0:49 left in the first quarter.
Trailing 19-7 after one canto, Park held a 13-7 scoring edge in the second frame to cut the deficit to 26-20 at the break.
But B-U dominated the second half on the defensive end, holding the Lady Patriots to a mere seven points over the final two quarters.
“[Park] can really shoot the ball,” Maxwell said. “To hold them to seven points in the second half was unreal, especially a team that’s in the final four [of the state tournament].”
A layup by a determined Lauren Bennett and a free throw from Hanna McClung pushed the Lady Buc lead to 29-20 to start the third quarter.
After the teams exchanged baskets, sophomore Alli Robinson drained a key 3-pointer to push the B-U lead back to 12, at 34-22, with 4:17 left in the quarter.
McClung then followed with another trey and Reynolds sank a jumper to give B-U a 17-point cushion and the Lady Patriots would get no closer than 12 points the remainder of the game.
B-U held Wheeling Park standout Josie Daugherty to just seven points, 11 below her average.
“We came out wanting to stop Daugherty and make someone else beat us,” Maxwell said. “She has one of the fastest [shooting] releases I’ve ever seen and we weren’t going to let her beat us.”
McClung also landed in double figures for B-U with 10 points. She also handed out four assists and collected six steals. Bennett had four helpers and three steals and Robinson was tops in rebounding with eight to go along with three steals.
Park, which connected on just 10 of its 56 field-goal attempts and was a frigid 4-of-26 from beyond the arc, was led by Lauren Schultz with 10 points and seven rebounds.
“[Buckhannon-Upshur] was a team you could tell was a little more hungry tonight and they hit their shots,” said Lady Patriot coach Ryan Young, whose team finished the season 19-7. “They have a great team and a great coach and I hope they win [the state title] because they deserve it.”
Huntington 72, B-U 54
Hanna McClung 3-8 2-2 8, Alli Robinson 3-6 2-3 8, Lauren Bennett 2-10 2-6 6, Lauren Louk 2-6 0-0 4, Makayla Reynolds 9-15 6-6 24, Audrey Gaudet 2-2 0-0 4, McKinley Gaudet 0-5 0-0 0, Ashton Maxwell 0-2 0-0 0, Brooklyn Maxwell 0-0 0-0 0, Tatiyana Caesar 0-0 0-0 0. Totals
21-54 12-17 54
Kearsta Turner 2-5 1-3 5, Mariah Harmon 6-13 6-9 19, Lexi Sheffield 1-9 11-12 14, Madison Slash 1-2 2-2 4, Jordyn Dawson 11-27 6-8 28, Alezha Turner 1-3 0-0 2, Haley Early 0-0 0-0 0, Jaylese Sims 0-0 0-0 0, Alayah Johnson 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 22-59 26-34 72
B-U 10 14 16 14 - 54
Huntington 13 11 20 28 - 72
3-point goals - B-U 0-10 (McClung 0-1, Robinson 0-1, Louk 0-2, M. Gaudet 0-5, A. Maxwell 0-1), Huntington 2-12 (Turner 0-3, Harmon 1-3, Sheffield 1-5, Dawson 0-1), Fouled out - McClung, Robinson. Rebounds - B-U 38 (Reynolds 8, McClung 7), Huntington 40 (Dawson 12). Assists - B-U 12 (Bennett 4), Huntington 5 (Dawson 3). Total fouls - B-U 27, Huntington 11
B-U 49, Wheeling Park 27
Wheeling Park (19-7)
Emily Pavlic 1-7 0-0 3, Kylie McKennen 1-5 0-0 3, Lauren Schultz 5-15 0-0 10, Josie Daugherty 2-12 1-2 7, Morgan Glass 1-4 0-0 2, Brionna Bray 0-5 2-2 2, Emma Kendle 0-4 0-0 0, Laurel Robb 0-2 0-0 0, Kirstin Hartman 0-1 0-0 0, Shanley Woods 0-1 0-0 0, Abby Jones 0-0 0-0 0, Megan Stanford 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 10-56 3-4 27
Hanna McClung 2-9 4-6 10, Alli Robinson 1-3 0-0 3, Lauren Bennett 2-4 1-3 5, Makayla Reynolds 7-13 0-1 14, Lauren Louk 3-5 1-2 7, McKinley Gaudet 3-4 0-0 8, Bailee Yokum 1-1 0-0 2, Ashton Maxwell 0-4 0-0 0, Tatiyana Caesar 0-1 0-0 0, Audrey Gaudet 0-0 0-0 0, McKenzie Kittle 0-0 0-0 0, Leigh Ann Bennett 0-0 0-0 0, Sydney Fletcher 0-0 0-0 0, Kassidy Wilfong 0-0 0-0 0, Brooklyn Maxwell 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 19-44 6-12 49
Wheeling Park 7 13 4 3 - 27
B-U 19 7 13 10 - 49
3-point goals - WP 4-26 (Pavlic 1-5, McKennen 1-2, Schultz 0-4, Daugherty 2-10, Bray 0-3, Hartman 0-1, Woods 0-1), B-U 5-13 (McClung 2-4, Robinson 1-2, Reynolds 0-2, M. Gaudet 2-2, Maxwell 0-3). Fouled out - none. Rebounds - WP 39 (Schultz 7), B-U 37 (Robinson 8). Assists - WP 8 (McKennen 4), B-U 15 (McClung, Bennett 4). Total fouls - WP 17, B-U 12