TENNERTON — The Buckhannon-Upshur High School girls varsity basketball team (18-5) played host to the University Hawks (9-8) in the Region 1, Section 2 tournament finals this past Friday night. Entering the sectional tournament, the Lady Bucs overall body of work was impressive enough to end the regular season ranked as the sixth best team in the state, ranked third in Class AAAA Region I and rated as the top overall seed in the section.
The Lady Bucs earned home-court advantage through the sectional tournament after sweeping their regular season contests against sectional foes, finishing the season with a perfect 3-0 mark against University, Preston and Bridgeport. While the team overcame both Bridgeport and Preston with relative ease, they had a much more difficult time beating University, escaping with a 3-point, 53-50 victory. The earlier matchup between these two offered a preview of what they had in store for the championship game.
The Lady Bucs got off to a solid start, outscoring the Hawks 12-8 in the first period. Junior forward Kendal Currence was an early impact player for Head Coach Rob Kittle’s Lady Bucs, making her mark by scoring 3 early 2-point field goals in the first quarter.
With a slight 4-point advantage entering the second quarter; the Lady Bucs came out firing from the perimeter, narrowly outscoring the Hawks 11-10 in the period, with 9 of their points coming off shots from beyond the three-point arc. Heading into the locker-room for halftime, B-U held a 5-point, 23-18 lead.
Coming out of halftime, the Lady Bucs defense seemed determined to put the game out of reach in the third, swarming the Hawks’ ball-handlers on each possession. The defensive adjustments Coach Kittle and his staff implemented at halftime went a long way towards accomplishing this goal, as his team only allowed the Hawks to score 7 points in the third quarter. Offensively, the Lady Bucs took advantage of the opportunity allowed by their stifling defense, scoring 13 points in the third period to extend their lead to double-digits entering the fourth quarter. After a very quiet first half in which she was held scoreless for one of the few times this year, the Lady Bucs’ senior leader Shelby McDaniels seized control of the game, scoring 8 points in the third, in addition to her outstanding on-ball perimeter defense.
In the early stages of the fourth and final quarter, the Hawks mounted a furious run, steadily chipping away at the Lady Bucs lead. With 3:05 left in the fourth quarter, the Lady Bucs called a timeout to collect themselves after watching their 11-point lead wither into a tenuous 4-point, 42-38 lead. Sophomore shooting guard/small forward Gabby Parke hit a huge 3-point jumper off a pass from McDaniels on the very next possession to give the Lady Bucs a little more breathing room, up 45-38 with a little over 2 minutes remaining. After a pair of inside buckets cut the Lady Bucs lead to 45-42 with just 1:06 to play, the packed home crowd became a factor, giving the girls a boost they needed to close out the game. After a scary sequence in which they nearly turned the ball over after struggling to in-bound the ball, the Lady Bucs broke the Hawks’ press and Abel hit a dagger mid-range jump shot with under 30 seconds left to seal the deal. In the end, the Lady Bucs won by a final score of 47-43, clinching the Region I, Section 2 championship.
After a first quarter offensive explosion, Currence finished the game scoring a team-high 13 points, pulling down a team-high 10 rebounds, dishing out 2 assists, coming away with 2 steals and blocking 2 shots. Currence was a key player that helped tip the outcome of this in favor of the Lady Bucs by consistently making winning plays on both sides of the ball.
McDaniels scored 10 points, pulled down 8 rebounds and dished out 6 assists to go along with 5 steals against the Hawks. After a phenomenal senior campaign, McDaniels helped collect a sectional championship by being a vocal and steady leader. Despite not putting together her best game as a Buc against University, McDaniels time and time again came away with huge plays during pivotal moments in the game.
Senior guard Olivia Ellis played huge minutes against University, finishing the game with 8 points, 2 rebounds, an assist and 3 steals. Alyssa Abel also scored 8 points, while pulling down 5 rebounds, dishing out 2 assists and came away with a steal.
Sophomore combo guard Kenna Maxwell scored 3 points, dished out 2 assists, pulled down a rebound, and came away with a steal; Parke ended the night with 3 points and 5 rebounds, while Kyndal Davis scored 2 points, pulled down 3 rebounds and blocked a shot to round out the Lady Bucs’ performance in the sectional championship game.
The Lady Bucs will now turn their attention to the upcoming regional tournament, in which they hope to secure a bid to Charleston. The Lady Bucs are scheduled to open their run at states with a first-round match up against Wheeling Park (18-5) on Tuesday, March 1, with tip-off slated for 7 p.m. at Buckhannon-Upshur High School. Two first-round winners will advance to the regional finals to be held Thursday, March 3, with a bid to the WVSSAC Girls High School State Basketball Championship on the line.