Lady Bucs win fourth straight sectional title

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Will host John Marshall on Tuesday night in a co-regional final after holding off Morgantown

TENNERTON — The Buckhannon-Upshur girls basketball team is one victory away from returning to Charleston for the school-best fourth straight season.

The top-ranked Lady Bucs, winners of 19 straight games and now 23-1 on the season, held off No. 3 Morgantown, 53-49, in Thursday night’s Class AAA, Region 1, Section 2 title game. They will now host John Marshall, which lost to Wheeling Park in the section 1 title game, at 7 p.m. Tuesday.

“It was a battle,” said B-U coach Jeremy Maxwell, whose team defeated Morgantown for the third time this season. “We did a great job with our pressure defense in creating turnovers. However, we missed a lot of easy shots we usually make.

“I give Morgantown a lot of credit. Coach [Jason] White had a good game plan against us but our girls found a way to pull it out at the end and that’s what champion-caliber teams do.”

The Lady Bucs carried a slim 34-33 advantage into the final quarter in front of the capacity and emotional crowd on hand inside the B-UHS gymnasium but the fourth frame featured a back-and-forth battle.

Morgantown, behind the front-court duo of 5-foot-11 junior Sydni Clawges and 6-foot-1 freshman Kaitlyn Ammons, surged into the lead on a pair of free throws from Clawges to start the quarter en route to building a five-point advantage, at 39-34 on a basket by Ammons with six minutes left in regulation.

B-U answered with a 5-0 run on a layup by Hanna McClung, a free throw from Lauren Bennett and Audrey Gaudet’s game-tying runner off of her steal.

After Morgantown took the lead on the other end on Jaimalyn Ash’s basket, the Lady Bucs responded on a jumper by senior McKinley Gaudet just inside the arc, followed by a clutch 3-pointer by Bennett and a layup by McClung that pushed the lead to 46-41 with under three minutes remaining.

Morgantown never came closer than three points the remainder of the night as McClung took over the game at the free-throw line. The all-state point guard  knocked down all six of her attempts in the final minute and Bennett added another one with 8.8 seconds left to give B-U a four-point victory at game’s end.

“I love having the ball in my hands late in the game,” said McClung, who has signed to play at Lenoir-Rhyne and finished with 22 points on the night. “We didn’t shoot the ball very well [from the floor] and were able to still get the victory.

“We didn’t get off to a good start [offensively] but we’ll take the win and look ahead to [Tuesday night] and learn from this one.”

As McClung mentioned, both teams struggled in the opening frame to find the basket as the Mohigans jumped out to an early 8-1 lead before the Lady Bucs scored the final four points of the canto.

The B-U defense, which forced nearly 40 MHS turnovers on the night, then ignited play on the offensive end as senior Ashton Maxwell drained a 3-pointer and McClung followed with a layup off a steal to give B-U its first lead, at 15-13, at the five-minute mark of the second quarter.

The Lady Bucs closed the frame on an 13-10 surge to lead by five, at 28-23, at the break.

Morgantown eventually tied the game at 31-31 on Ammons’ jumper with 1:06 left in the third quarter.

Junior Alli Robinson regained the lead for B-U just 21 ticks later with a 3-pointer .

Two free throws from Clawges cut the margin to 34-33 entering the fourth.

Even though they were plagued by turnovers, Morgantown dominated the boards, holding a 49-23 edge in that category as Ammons and Clawges combined for nearly 29 caroms.

Bennett added 13 points in a winning effort, while McClung finished the night with seven steals and four assists and Audrey Gaudet pulled down eight crucial rebounds against the taller MHS inside players.

Clawges finished with 22 points and 14 caroms for MHS (18-6) and Ammons tossed in 19 points and grabbed 15 rebounds.

The Lady Mohigans will visit Wheeling Park in the other co-regional final on Tuesday.

“This is a victory we can build on,” Maxwell said. “We’re certainly very happy to get the win but now we can get back to practice and work on things we need to continue to do well to keeping advancing into the postseason.

“You will have close games this time of the year and we’re very fortunate to have a veteran group that’s played a lot of basketball and been in those type of situations and know how to handle it.”

B-U defeated John Marshall on the road, 65-44, back on Feb. 3.

The boxscore:

Morgantown (18-6)

Jaimalyn Ash 1 0-0 2, Aleena McDaniel 1 0-0 2, Sydni Clawges 8 6-8 22, Kaitlyn Ammons 9 1-3 19, Leighton Croft 2 0-1 4, Jaimalyn Ash 0 0-0 0, Alexia Hughes 0 0-0 0, Maddie Seman 0 0-0 0, Cat Wassick 0 0-0 0, Jaydn LaNeve 0 0-0 0. Totals 21 7-12 49

Buckhannon-Upshur (23-1)

Hanna McClung 7 7-7 22, Alli Robinson 2 1-2 6, McKinley Gaudet 1 0-0 2, Lauren Bennett 4 3-6 13, Audrey Gaudet 2 1-2 5, Leigh Ann Bennett 1 0-0 2, Ashton Maxwell 1 0-0 3, Brooklyn Maxwell 0 0-0 0. Totals 18 12-17 53

Morgantown               8  15  10  16 — 49

Buckhannon-Upshur 5  23    6  19 — 53

3-point goals — MHS 0, B-U 5 (Lauren Bennett 2, McClung, Robinson and A. Maxwell)

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