Sissonville's Taylor Rhodes is double-teamed by Tolsia's Krista Maynard (left) and Savannah Winnett.
SISSONVILLE, W.Va. -- Maybe it's fitting that on Senior Night at Sissonville, Tolsia's experience proved to be the difference.The young Indians led almost throughout and controlled the tempo of the game, but Rebels junior Savannah Winnett bailed her team out with three clutch free throws and a buzzer-beating put-back as Tolsia defeated Class AA No. 10 Sissonville 45-43 in a thriller on Monday night.The final tally was Tolsia's first lead since holding a 12-10 cushion at the end of the first quarter, and the win clinched the Cardinal Conference championship for the Rebels. Sissonville went on a 13-2 run throughout the second quarter and was in control right up to the waning minutes, but the Indians, who start three freshmen and a sophomore, made one too many costly mistakes late.Indians coach Rich Skeen admitted as much after the game."You saw a little bit of veteran leadership on [Tolsia's] part coming through," Skeen said. "We just turned the ball over way, way too many times in the fourth quarter. Freshmen - we live and die with them. But just way too many turnovers and that's what cost us - and some ill-advised shots we shouldn't have taken."Ryan Henry knocked down a jumper to stretch Sissonville's lead to 42-37 late in the fourth quarter but Tolsia's Jordan Presley answered with a hoop of her own.With a little over a minute remaining, Winnett was fouled on a 3-point attempt. She stroked the first and then the second two after a Sissonville timeout to tie the game at 42.
"I was literally about to puke," Winnett said of her nerves. "I knew if I didn't make those three we had to get a quick steal and come back. I was pretty nervous - I was shaking, bad."Sissonville then dribbled down most of the final minute until Karli Pinkerton made a move toward the hoop and was fouled with 8.7 seconds left.After making the second of two free throws, Presley raced down the floor and was fouled before taking a shot with 3.4 seconds left, setting up a 1-and-1.She made the first and missed the second, causing a chaotic scrum under the hoop where Tolsia's Jamie Maynard pulled down a rebound and missed a shot. But Winnett grabbed the final board and flung another put-back opportunity toward the rim.
The ball hit the back iron about the time the buzzer sounded, bounced straight up into the air and fell through."I was really happy," Winnett said. "We fought hard. We came into the locker room at halftime and our heads were down but Coach picked us back up and told us not to get down on ourselves. We had a tough game but we fought until we won."Tolsia coach Ric Morrone credited his team's attitude coming into the second half.
"I thought at the end of the game it was just a will to win," Morrone said. "We were down nine at halftime and we challenged the girls and told them, 'You can be beaten, but don't be defeated.' If you go in there with your head down and lay down, you're defeated."Both teams brought stout defenses into Monday's game and neither disappointed as the Indians forced 20 Tolsia turnovers while Sissonville (14-6) accumulated 17 of its own, many of which came late in the game.Winnett led all scorers with 15 points and added eight rebounds while Krista Maynard scored 11 points and pulled down 11 boards for the Rebels. Presley chipped in with 11 points as well.Pinkerton led the Indians with 13 points while Madison Jones scored 11 and Henry 10.Despite being 18-3 with all three losses coming to Class AAA foes, the Rebels were still left out of the Class AA rankings released on Monday, something Morrone said is known, but not discussed."I don't, but to think that people don't see that - kids do and so do other people and it fuels the fire," Morrone said. "We know what we're all about. We're undefeated in probably the toughest AA conference. But I'm not campaigning, our goal is at the end of the year and we know it's a lot of work to get there."
Monday's win was the sixth game in eight days for Tolsia.Reach Ryan Pritt at 304-348-7948, firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow him at twitter.com/RPritt.