Future looks bright for many girls state tourney teams

Chip Ellis
Parkersburg South's Keya Bartlett and Amber Cottrell hug after helping lead the Patriots to the Class AAA championship Saturday night.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Last week's 37th girls high school state basketball tournament was full of surprises.Parkersburg South, the third seed, lost its first three games to open the season before winning its last six games, including Saturday's 58-34 victory over Logan in the Class AAA championship.Logan, the fifth seed, was only making its third appearance in school history at states and marched all the way to the finals. Along the way the Wildcats picked up their first state tournament win and knocked off No. 1 Spring Valley in the semifinals.Capital, the lone representative from the Kanawha Valley, upset No. 1, undefeated and defending state champion Greenbrier East in the regionals just to get to states for the first time in more than a decade before bowing out to Spring Valley in the opening round.In AA, Bridgeport, which dropped down from AAA after falling in last year's title game, dethroned defending state champion Westside. Clay County, a top-five team all season and a semifinalist a year ago, was bounced in the quarterfinals by a relatively youthful Fairmont Senior squad.There was nothing shocking in Class A, however, as St. Joseph maintained its dominance in capturing its fifth straight title to tie the all-class record for consecutive championships. Valley made its first appearance in the tourney since 1991 and Tucker County's young bunch went all the way to the semis.South and Logan seem primed for several more meetings in the AAA title matchup. Patriots sophomore guard Keya Bartlett, who tied the single-game tournament record for 3-pointers with seven and set the mark for 3-pointers in a tourney with 14, and freshman point guard Taryn McCutcheon, a speedy ball-handler and tough defender, are just now scratching the surface of their abilities. Several times during Saturday's title tilt, South had four freshmen and one sophomore on the floor.Logan 5-foot-11 sophomore point guard Shayna Gore, who poured in 36 points in her tournament debut - just missing the single-game mark by seven points - and 6-2 freshman center Monica Mitchell, who averaged a double-double at the Charleston Civic Center, are also coming into their own. Wildcats freshman guard Kyra Cline, who usually drew the opposition's top scorer at states, adds another dimension.
Spring Valley is also sophomore laden with all-tournament selections Madison Morris and Sarah Kelly, in addition to forward Brooke Heck, each having two years of eligibility remaining. Capital will lose its top two scorers in seniors Khadijah Lee and Keke Walker, but 6-2 sophomore center Dashia Foster displayed promising flashes.Bridgeport says farewell to guard Miki Glenn, who netted 40 points in the semifinals to break the single-game AA scoring mark, but sophomore forward Hannah Fetty and freshman post Hope Chalfant, both all-tournament picks, form a solid base.Westside all-tourney honorees Hope Lester (sophomore) and Faith Davis (junior) will no doubt still have the hunger. Clay doesn't have a senior on its roster and will be led again by the guard combo of Brittany Gould (21.3 points) and McKinzee Barker (12.7). Fairmont Senior sophomore all-tournament selections Kaden Whaley and Emily Stoller form a solid nucleus that loses only two seniors.St. Joe returns its entire starting five, including all-tournament honorees Mychal Thompson and Griffin Dempsey (juniors) and Mychelle Thompson (freshman), along with juniors Asia Petitte and Rachel Lee, as they go for a record sixth title in a row.Valley graduates top scorer Alexis Payne, but returns promising sophomore shooting guard Abby Buchan, who turned in 18.6 points per game. Tucker County graduates all-tourney guard Amber Evans, but 6-1 center Savannah Ambrose and Stephanie Betler gained valuable experience as juniors. St. Marys, which has lost in the title game three of the past four years, loses senior all-state performer Audra Clark, but 6-4 junior Kendra Walker is waiting in the wings.BrieflyAmong Kanawha Valley teams that advanced to regional co-finals but failed to advance, George Washington brings back a solid group in junior post Kelli Jo Harrison (17.1 points), sophomore point guard Alanna Mobayed and sophomore guard Hailey Stewart, while sophomore forward Lilly Ash played in a lot of big-game situations as the top substitute ... St. Albans will be looking for more growth from sophomore wing Breanna Propst, who was among the top 10 in scoring in the Mountain State Athletic Conference at 16.3 points, and freshman guard Torii Wilson, who scored in double figures seven times, and sophomore Lexie Cooper, who netted 16 in the regional loss to Logan. ... Winfield, which fell to Spring Valley in the regionals, graduates its top two point producers. ... Charleston Catholic should be OK after getting three starters back from knee injuries plus returning point guard Anna Whelan's heady play.
Reach Tommy R. Atkinson at tatkinson@wvgazette.com or 304-348-4811.
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