St. Albans' Addison Oliver looks for help while being guarded by Riverside's LaMontica Burger (44) and Brittany Wood Friday night at St. Albans.
ST. ALBANS, W.Va. -- When St. Albans sophomore Lexie Cooper embraced her sister Kirsten at midcourt on her seventh birthday prior to Friday night's game, the home crowd got to share in a sentimental moment.
What the crowd couldn't hear was Cooper promising her kid sister a win.
When it looked like that result could be in jeopardy, the Red Dragons guard did her damage, scoring all nine of her points in a stretch run in the third quarter, enabling St. Albans to turn a three-point halftime deficit into a five-point lead and eventually a 42-33 win over Riverside.
"Well, yeah," Cooper smiled when asked if a promise was made. "We had a really big pep talk at halftime and I appreciate it from our coach, because it really got us going."
In addition to the stern lecture, St. Albans coach Scott James turned up the full-court pressure on the Warriors, taking advantage of superior guard play and forcing Riverside (0-1) into 39 turnovers.
"That was one of the things we were supposed to do early on in the first half," James said of the pressure. "We knew they had real strong post players and we wanted to pressure the ball out on the perimeter and keep it from going into the post."
Even when the ball didn't make it into the post, the Warriors, and in particular sophomore center Brittany Wood, were able to make their presence felt.
Put a gold star by Wood's name after the post player racked up 21 of her team's 33 points to go along with 13 rebounds and 10 blocks.
That performance was almost enough to overcome all of Riverside's mistakes as the Warriors cut the Red Dragons' lead back down to two late in the fourth quarter.
But on a tough shooting night, St. Albans was finally able to settle down and knock down some free throws, particularly Katelyn Propst who went 8 for 10 in the final eight minutes and finished with a team-high 12 points.
Still, first-year Riverside coach Scott Garretson wasn't totally discouraged by what he saw from his team, especially Wood.
"We'll learn from it," Garretson said. "I was proud of them, I thought we played hard. I'm not about moral victories. I told them, 'moral victories are over, it's time to start winning.' But I will complement them on a hard-fought effort.
"[Wood]'s a great player. I'm very fortunate to have her. As long as we can keep getting her the ball like we want to we can do good things."
A lot of youth was on display as neither team started a senior and St. Albans is made up entirely of freshmen and sophomores save for Propst, who is a junior.
"It's going to be a growth process throughout the year," James admitted. "They did a good job rising to the challenge in the second half tonight."
Freshman Torri Wilson scored 10 points for St. Albans (1-1) while junior Rachel Mills added eight for Riverside.
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