ST. ALBANS, W.Va. -- It was not always pretty, and at times was downright rough, but Logan fought and fended off a late rally to beat St. Albans 57-46 to capture the Class AAA Region 4 girls basketball co-championship and advance to the program's first state tournament since 2000.The Wildcats (15-9) opened the game by putting pressure on the Red Dragons and running out to an early 16-3 lead. By the end of the first quarter Logan led 20-9 thanks in large part to four 3-pointers from senior Hannah Tothe.By halftime, Logan held a 30-19 advantage and had forced St. Albans (14-11) from its usual zone defense and into guarding the Wildcats man to man."They shot the eyes out of the basket," Red Dragons' coach Scott James said. "We had a plan to where we were going to stay with [Shayna Gore] and double down on [Monica Mitchell] and the coaches and I talked about Tothe being the wild card. If she was hitting we were going to have to make some changes quick and she came out early and that's what hurt us."
Logan coach Kevin Gertz said Gore and Mitchell have been the team's leading scorers all season, and when St. Albans was able to limit what they could do he needed other players to fill that void."Somebody's got to score," he said. "I told them, 'You're going to see a lot of zone. Somebody's got to knock down shots,' and they did."St. Albans clawed its way back into the game in the second half, matching Logan point for point and eventually cutting the Wildcats' lead to as few as nine points early in the fourth quarter on a Lexie Cooper 3-pointer."[Cooper] and Torri [Wilson] stepped up, attacked the creases and hit their shots," James said. "It got us right back in the basketball game."Logan was able to withstand the late run St. Albans made by going back to what got the Wildcats to this point - Gore and Mitchell.Gore finished with nine points, with all of them coming in the second half. Gertz said she was frustrated at halftime but he told her to play her game and things would fall into place."She's a tremendous player and has been our leading scorer almost every game this year," he said. "They shut her down but she got other people involved and that's how we got that first half lead, but she finished the fourth quarter like an all-stater."Time and again Gore brought the ball up the court and found Mitchell in the paint where the freshman forward used her size to punish the shorter Red Dragon defenders and get to the foul line."[Mitchell] is a heck of a player down there but I thought our girls battled really well with her," James said. "It got really physical down the stretch, [the officials] let it go and that's fine. It went both ways. They got some offensive putbacks that really hurt us down the stretch."Gertz placed the bulk of the blame for allowing St. Albans to get back in the game on his own shoulders, but praised his team for withstanding the storm in the fourth quarter."I did a horrible job coaching in the second half," he said. "All I did was complain to officials and I don't do that. I always coach my kids and tonight I didn't."
Tothe finished as the game's leading scorer with 20 points while teammate Kyra Cline chipped in with 16. Mitchell scored 12 for the Wildcats, with eight of those coming in the second half.For St. Albans, Copper was the leading scorer with 16, Breanna Propst had 11 and Wilson finished with seven.James said he was disappointed his team was not going to the state tournament, but that his team's youth gives him and his staff a reason to see brighter days ahead for SA girls hoops."[Logan is] young, we're young, Spring Valley is young. Basketball is on the rise in this area," He said. "We're excited. It's going to take a commitment for us to take the next step and get to the state tournament but these girls have given everything they've got and it's been one of the most enjoyable years since I've been coaching here."For Gertz and the Wildcats, the waiting game starts now. Two Class AAA regional co-finals were postponed Tuesday so the state tournament seeds will not be released for several days. He said he expects to be the underdog from now on but welcomes the challenge."Now we're the underdog every game we play from here on out," he said. "Honestly I hope we're down four, five or six going in to the fourth quarter. We play a whole hell of a lot better, I can tell you that."
Reach Tom Bragg at firstname.lastname@example.org.