ST. ALBANS, W.Va. -- The Battle for the Bridge rivalry between Nitro and St. Albans carried a little more weight Tuesday night.Sophomore guard Torri Wilson spearheaded a defense that held down one of the top scorers in the Mountain State Athletic Conference as the Red Dragons took a 54-32 victory over the Wildcats. A crowd of about 400 attended the matchup of schools separated by about 5 miles across the Kanawha River at the Tex McCue Williams Gymnasium at St. Albans High School.Kanawha County Schools Superintendent Ron Duerring waived the no-school, no-play policy Tuesday to allow extra-curricular activities Tuesday even though classes were called off by bitter cold temperatures.SA (10-2) used a 2-3 zone defense with Wilson and junior guard Lexi Cooper at the top, harassing Nitro junior point guard Savannah Shamblin into 5-of-21 shooting for only 11 points. The 5-foot-3 Shamblin was the third-leading scorer in the league, averaging 22.4 points coming into Tuesday's play.
The Red Dragons, who won their fifth in a row, improved to 1-1 in the West Division, where four of the eight teams are state-ranked. Nitro (10-2, 0-2) was seventh in this week's Class AAA Associated Press poll and had won its first 10 before dropping the last two."We tried to communicate more where she's at because she's a great player,'' said Wilson of keeping track of Shamblin. "All of us were looking to see where she was at and what we needed to do.''"Defense won this ballgame,'' added SA coach Scott James, whose team is allowing just 32.7 points per game. "People don't realize sometimes we win ugly, but we've been playing really, really good defense. Our girls work hard at it.''SA freshman Alli Johnson came off the bench to lead all scorers with 15 points and grabbed seven rebounds and Wilson contributed 10 points, four boards, three assists and four steals. Red Dragons sophomore post player Cameron Davis added 10 points and junior wing Breanna Propst donated six points and 11 caroms.SA ran away from Nitro near the end of the third quarter, using an 8-0 run fueled by four straight points from Davis at the free-throw line, turning an 11-point lead into a 19-point advantage (42-23) with 9.6 seconds left in the period.The Wildcats started off missing their first 15 shots and finished with 19.4 percent shooting. Nitro also committed 20 turnovers."Scott James had a great game plan,'' said Nitro coach Will Samuel. "I felt like we'd figure out a way to beat it, but our girls didn't execute."We tried to adjust and get [Shamblin] off the top of the floor, but when I did that, it seemed St. Albans got a lot of turnovers. I was at a loss of ideas to free her up. We're at a really low point in our season right now. We've got to figure out a way to get back on track.''Nitro junior forward Tiffany Reavis landed 17 rebounds to go along with six points.SA was on the fringe of the AAA top 10 this week, first among schools receiving votes with seven."We're going to get into the meat of our schedule soon and I think we're definitely ready,'' said Wilson. "[The win over Nitro is] going to give us a lot of confidence going into some of the tougher games. I feel like we proved we can beat anybody.''
Reach Tommy R. Atkinson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-4811.