‘We brought a community together’


Despite heart-breaking loss in title game, Lady Bucs leave the court as winners

CHARLESTON — In the aftermath of Saturday night’s loss to Parkersburg in the Class AAA title game, Buckhannon-Upshur coach Jeremy Maxwell provided some inspirational words as he was flanked by three of his heart-broken senior players.

“These girls have changed the culture, changed lives and inspired a community,” Maxwell said. “You can’t look [inside the Civic Center with the large attendance of B-U fans] and tell me that they’re not doing something special.

“Win or lose, it’s a game. But the things we’ve been able to learn along the way has been special.”

The goal of the 2017-18 version of the Lady Bucs was simple — to win a state championship.

Even though they fell short of that in Saturday night’s 49-47 setback, this group, led by seniors Hanna McClung, Lauren Bennett, McKinley Gaudet and Ashton Maxwell, took the program to new heights, finishing as state runner-ups two years in a row and shattering a majority of school records along the way.

“We had a goal of winning it all,” coach Maxwell said. “But I don’t think it takes away from what we’ve done.

“Before this group, I think they won 14 or so games in 10 years. They’ve won 83 in four years. I don’t think there’s a program in the state, regardless of state championships, that has the body of work that this group has done.”

A cold-shooting night from the floor and some controversial calls  played a part in B-U’s quest for a first-ever girls basketball state title.

The Lady Bucs connected on just 17-of-66 of their field-goal attempts for 25.8 percent, while the Big Reds attempted just 43 field goals, hitting 20 of their shots while committing 34 turnovers.

B-U had overcame a 23-16 halftime deficit behind the play of Bennett, who dominated the third quarter on the stat sheet.

Bennett, who set a state-tourney record with 27 steals, scored 12 of her 18 points in the third canto as the Lady Bucs took a 33-29 advantage into the fourth quarter.

“I think [Lauren] is the most underrated player in the state,” coach Maxwell said. “I find it hard to believe there’s a better defensive player in the state than her.”

“I kind of wish I would have done that for all four quarters,” said Bennett, who broke Renee Mongtomery’s steals mark. “I understood eventually what [Parkersburg] was trying to do. They knew Hanna was carrying our team [early] and she had 15 of our 16 points in the first half. But it takes all five players on the court. As another leader on the court, I took it under my wing to know that if they are going to underrate me as a player, I’m going to take it to my advantage.”

A banked-in 3-pointer from Shaylee Kirby cut the deficit to one, at 35-34, and Parkersburg then went on a 12-5 run to build a 47-40 advantage with 1:09 remaining.

But as they have done the entire season, B-U showed the heart of a champion down the stretch as all five players, led by the four seniors, put forth an emotional and determined late rally.

Two free throws from Bennett were followed by a key 3-pointer from Gaudet that cut the lead to 47-45 with 40 seconds left.

After forcing a turnover on the other end, Maxwell was fouled with just 11 seconds left and calmly knocked down both attempts to tie the game at 47-47.

But Kirby, as she attempted to race through the Lady Buccaneer press, was fouled 30 feet from the basket after she appeared to have traveled or double dribbled before the light contact.

The sophomore hit both of her free throws to give the Big Reds a two-point lead with eight seconds left.

Out of a timeout, McClung raced up court and drove to the basket, taking some contact as her game-tying shot fell off mark and PHS was awarded possession.

On the in-bounds with just one-second remaining, Robinson made a steal well beyond the 3-point arc and her desperation one-handed fling clanked off the rim to end the game.

“We were trying to draw a foul [on the last play], kind of like what they did on us the play before,” Jeremy Maxwell said. “But we didn’t get the call.

“But that’s not taking anything away from the effort for Parkersburg and my hat is off to them. There’s a human element [in regards to calling fouls] and I’m not crying over spilled milk. I just wish we weren’t in that situation at the end needing a call.”

Madi Mace scored 14 points and grabbed 13 points for the Big Reds (22-6). Kirby added 12 points and Aleea Crites 11 points and 10 rebounds.

McClung, who has signed with Lenoir-Rhyne, led all scorers with 22 points. She also had three assists and six steals as her historic career at B-U came to a conclusion.

“It hurts right now, losing the state championship again,” said McClung, who departs as the school’s all-time leading scorer for boys and girls. “Even though we lost today, I see us winning every day because we brought a community together and inspired people every single time on the court, and that’s our purpose.”

Bennett, meanwhile, nearly recorded a triple double with her 18 points, 15 rebounds and nine steals.

For coach Maxwell, his feelings for this team reach much further than just on the court.

“What I know is that adversity causes perseverance and perseverance makes you perfect,” he said. “I think they’re a pretty perfect bunch. I just know personally with what  I’ve been through. These girls watched my wife [Miranda] battle cancer for three years and fight. She died in October of this past year and they pulled my through that and we fought through that. When Hanna tore her ACL [in 2015], she fought through that.

“They’ve come together and they’ve become a family.”

B-U concluded the season with a 26-2 record. Both losses came to state champions Parkersburg and North Marion (AA).

Semifinals

The Lady Bucs had to grind out a 42-39 decision over Wheeling Park in Friday night’s semifinals.

B-U trailed by five, at 19-14, at halftime before using a 7-0 run in the third quarter to regain the lead.

Trailing 40-34 with 1:39 left in regulation, Wheeling Park got to within one, at 40-39, before McClung sank a pair of key free throws with two seconds left to seal the victory.

McClung had 19 points, nine rebounds, three assists and three steals on the night, while Bennett netted 13 points and collected six steals.

Laurel Robb had 10 points and nine caroms for the Patriots.

The boxscores:

Parkersburg 49, Buckhannon-Upshur 47

Parkersburg (22-6)

Maddi Leggett 0-2 0-0 0, Aleea Crites 5-9 0-1 10, Shaylee Kirby 4-11 2-2 12, Tavien Clark 1-1 0-0 2, Madi Mace 6-11 1-2 13, Rylan Dudley 1-1 0-0 2, Maggie Richards 3-8 2-2 8, Meredith Martin 0-0 0-0 0, Emily Kupfner 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 20-43 5-7 49

Buckhannon-Upshur (26-2)

Buckhannon-Upshur (26-1)

Hanna McClung 8-25 2-2 22, Alli Robinson 1-5 0-0 2, McKinley Gaudet 1-8 0-0 3, Lauren Bennett 7-22 4-7 15, Ashton Maxwell 0-3 2-2 2, Audrey Gaudet 0-3 0-2 0, Leigh Ann Bennett 0-0 0-0 0, Brooklyn Maxwell 0-0 0-0 0, . Totals 17-66 8-11 47

Parkersburg                10 13   6 20 — 49

Buckhannon-Upshur 10    6 17 14 — 47

3-point goals — PHS 4-10 (Kirby 2-5, Crites 1-2, Mace 1-2, Leggett 0-1), B-U 5-21 (McClung 4-9, M. Gaudet 1-5, Robinson 0-2, Lauren Bennett 0-3, A. Maxwell 0-2). Fouled out — Mace. Rebounds — PHS 42 (Mace 13, Crites 10), B-U 32 (Lauren Bennett 15). Assists — PHS 15 (Mace 4), B-U 9 (McClung 3). Total fouls — PHS 17, B-U 12

Semifinals

Buckhannon-Upshur 42, Wheeling Park 39

Wheeling Park (18-7)

Laurel Robb 3-5 4-6 10, Brionna Gray 2-9 0-0 6, Emily Pavlic 1-5 0-0 3, Kylie McKennen 2-8 0-0 4, Bella Abernathy 2-3 2-6 6, Shanley Woods 2-4 1-2 7, Asia Roby 1-2 0-0 3, Kieran Johnson 0-0 0-0 0, Abby Snedeker 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 13-36 7-14 39

Buckhannon-Upshur (26-1)

Hanna McClung 7-15 4-10 19, Alli Robinson 1-4 3-4 5, McKinley Gaudet 1-4 2-3 5, Lauren Bennett 4-7 4-4 13, Audrey Gaudet 0-2 0-2 0, Leigh Ann Bennett 0-1 0-0 0, Brooklyn Maxwell 0-2 0-0 0, Ashton Maxwell 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 13-36 13-23 42

Wheeling Park              8 11   9 11 — 39

Buckhannon-Upshur   4 10 16 12 — 42

3-point goals — WP 6-21 (Gray 2-9, Woods 2-4, Pavlic 1-3, McKennen 0-3), B-U 3-13 (McClung 1-7, M. Gaudet 1-3, Lauren Bennett 1-2). Fouled out — None. Rebounds — WP 31 (Robb 9), B-U 24 (McClung 9). Assists — WP 8 (McKennen 5), B-U 6 (McClung 3). Total fouls — WP 18, B-U 14


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