CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- There was no better moment for the "third time's the charm" idiom to come through for Parkersburg South.
The Patriots avenged two regular-season losses to Morgantown and survived the second thrilling Class AAA state semifinal of the day as the No. 3 Patriots earned a 54-51 win over the No. 2 Mohigans in the girls tournament nightcap Friday at the Charleston Civic Center.
South pulled off the win by overcoming an eight-point halftime deficit, and the Patriots did it on the back of freshman point guard Taryn McCutcheon. She hit her last eight free throws down the stretch after missing two front ends of one-and-ones and simply made the right plays at the right time.
McCutcheon had her team's last 10 points and, despite wearing a nervous grimace throughout the final quarter, overcame the situation to lead the Patriots into the finals.
"I literally closed my eyes and started praying at the foul line," McCutcheon said. "I tried not to think about what happened before because I knew I've shot a million of them and I just needed to make the next ones. I really believe God helped me through that."
McCutcheon's last two free throws with a little over four seconds left gave South the final margin, although not before sweating out a long 3-point attempt from Morgantown's Leah Taylor that looked for all the world to be going in as the buzzer sounded.
"I thought it was going in," Taylor said. "We do this thing at the end of practice called 'bombs away' where we take shots from halfcourt. I kind of geared up for that I guess, but I just missed the shot when we needed it."
McCutcheon led all scorers with 23 points while sophomore Keya Bartlett, who scored 30 in South's quarterfinal win over Hedgesville, added 14.
South was also able to turn a 22-17 halftime rebounding deficit into a 38-33 advantage with 18 on the offensive end, all while forcing 21 Morgantown turnovers and holding the Mohigans (20-6) to 32.6 percent.
That rebounding advantage was a point Parkersburg South coach Scott Stephens hit on after the game.
"We had a disappointing first half, the effort I didn't think was there and the intensity level wasn't what it needed to be," Stephens said. "We were getting out rebounded and were giving up too many second chances. I think we corrected that some, we rebounded better in the second half, hedged on screens, guarded a little bit better and our defensive pressure was better. We still weren't real good on the offensive end but the defense made up for it and got us back in the game."
To Stephens' point, the Patriots shot just 31.3 percent but McCutcheon seemed to grow up in front of your eyes and she had just enough to get South by.
"Taryn McCutcheon is a heck of a ballplayer and she made tough shots down the stretch and we didn't," Morgantown coach Adam Henkins said. "She's a good ballplayer and made big shots so give credit to them."
No. 5 Logan will take a crack at the Patriots (19-7) at 7:15 p.m., and if today's championship game has anywhere near the drama that both of Friday's semifinals did, it should be can't-miss theater.
The Mohigans held an 8-point lead after Caroline Colombo buried a 3-pointer at the first-half buzzer.
That evaporated in a hurry as South scored the first six points of the second half and it was nip and tuck from there.
South outscored the Mohigans 31-20 after the break.
Taylor was the lone double-digit scorer for Morgantown with 14 points.
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