CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The early bird may get the worm, but those who stuck around late at the Charleston Civic Center on Wednesday for the first day of the girls state tournament got to see by far the most entertaining game of the day.
It wasn't always pretty, fundamentally sound, or for the faint of heart, but in the end, No. 4 Tucker County survived a hectic, physical, and bruising contest to earn a 61-53 decision over No. 5 Williamstown in a Class A quarterfinal game.
The two foes were hardly strangers despite not having played in the regular season.
Williamstown ended Tucker's season in the first round of the state tournament last year in an 84-82 thriller.
But this time around, Williamstown didn't have Liz Flowers to answer the Tucker County pressure and the Mountain Lions were able to exact a bit of revenge.
In that game Flowers, who was an all-West Virginia Conference freshman team selection for West Liberty this year, scored 47 points to get Williamstown into the second round.
But in the nightcap on Wednesday, Williamstown couldn't find an answer on the offensive end during a Tucker County 12-0 run to close the first half and Tucker somehow, someway held off a wild fourth-quarter rally by Williamstown, in large part without point guard Hunter Radford who fouled out midway through the final period.
Even with Radford, Tucker struggled to take care of the ball, turning it over 30 times. But the Mountain Lions defense forced 18 turnovers of their own and the players seemed to spend more time on the floor chasing loose balls than on their feet.
After leading by 17 at the half, Williamstown (14-10) outscored Tucker 16-10 in the third quarter and through foul shots, Tucker turnovers, and 3-pointers, Williamstown was able to chip the Mountain Lions lead all the way down to two in the first few moments of the fourth.
But percentages don't lie and in the first half Tucker made 51.6 percent of its shots compared to just 21.2 for Williamstown including 1-for-14 from 3-point range, many of them open looks resulting in a 36-19 halftime deficit.
Even though the Yellow Jackets roster lists seven seniors compared to just two for Tucker, it was the Mountain Lions that grinded through, making plays when they absolutely had to be made late in the game.
Kenzie Stephanie Betler scored 29 points and grabbed 12 rebounds for the Mountain Lions while Amber Evans had 21 points and 12 boards. In all, Tucker held a 51-37 advantage on the glass.
Kenzie Smith led the way for Williamstown with 19 points and Brooke Cieslewski had 16.
The Mountain Lions will take on No. 1 St. Joseph at 1 p.m. on Friday in a Class A semifinal game.
Reach Ryan Pritt at 304-348-7948, email@example.com
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