CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Despite having one of the best seasons in school history, Herbert Hoover girls basketball coach Greg Ullman indicated last week that, in order for the season to truly be successful, the Huskies needed to at least advance to regional play.Hoover had to survive a wild sequence at the end of the game to do it, automatically advancing to regionals with a 43-40 victory Wednesday night at home over Clay County in girls Class AA, Region 4, Section 1 action.The Huskies never trailed, but leading by six points with 16.6 remaining, Clay's McKinzie Barker raced down court and drained a 3-pointer to cut the deficit to a three points. Hoover inbounded the ball and attempted to break the press but the Panther defense deflected the ball.A wild scrum ensued with Barker finally coralling the ball for Clay. Needing a 3-pointer to tie and force overtime, a pass was thrown near the top of the key. But this time, the Huskies got the deflection, and with bodies from both team hitting the floor, Hoover's McKenzie Edmonds finally stole the ball, and was fouled.
Edmonds, a senior, calmly stepped to the foul line with 7.1 seconds to play needing one free throw to ice the game, and drained both of them, giving the Huskies a five-point lead. Barker hit a shot in the lane with three seconds left but without any more timeouts, Hoover ran out the clock, sealing the victory."It was really intense," said Edmonds of the final sequence. "Hannah (King) came up behind me and she was like 'We haven't won this game yet, you have to make these.' I was like, 'I know, I got this, I can do this.' It's just a knowing you have to do it. Me and Hannah both know. We have been in those situations before. I was just happy I did that for them so we could win."Ullman couldn't really remember much of the final sequence, but he did know that when Edmonds was fouled and went to the line, his senior captain would come through."I can't remember what happened now, I don't really know," Ullman said. "But most of the times, we come up with those balls. We are always diving on the floor and everything. When she (Edmonds) went to the free throw line, honestly, I didn't worry. I knew she had one for sure and probably both."She don't get fazed. McKenzie isn't a big scorer for us. I bet if I looked, she is probably at about four or five (points) a game, but she has knocked down some big free throws in other games and she's not afraid. She is so good at softball and all the other stuff she does. She's a big time player and has been a great senior captain."With the victory, Hoover (18-5) ties the school record for most wins in a season, and advances to the sectional final on Friday night at Sissonville at 7 p.m. The Indians have defeated the Huskies by lopsided scores of 68-52 and 63-41 in the team's two regular seasons contests.No matter what happens, though, against the Indians, being in the sectional final automatically sends to the Huskies into the regional final next week, where a victory would send Hoover to the state tournament. Only one other Husky team has ever made the state tournament, in 1988. The two favorites in Section 2 are Scott and Chapmanville, and Hoover lost to Scott three times this year and split with the Tigers.Ullman recognizes the significance of the accomplishment."It makes it a special season," Ullman said. "Winning a lot of games was good, but taking this step was a really big thing. We are in the regionals. Maybe we will play somebody better than us but, by golly, we will have a chance now. We had talked about it all week about something over 50 years only being done once."Hoover jumped on Clay early, scoring the first nine points of the game, and leading 14-2 after one. The Huskies still led by 10 at halftime, but in the third quarter, the Panthers scored the first eight points of the period and trimmed the lead to just two points.That's when King, a senior, took over for Hoover, scoring the next three points on a free throw and lay-up. Then late in the third quarter, the Husky post player hit a mid-range jumper and a clutch 3-pointer to give the team a cushion once again at 30-22.
"I had them all on the bench, and I said, 'Girls, we have been a good team all year. We have relied on everyone and everybody has scored.' But I patted her (King) on the leg, and said, 'But this is our horse, and that is who we are going to for now.' They did and she responded. It was a great job by the team and obviously by Hannah to follow up on what we had talked about."King recognized the importance of the moment as well."It really pushes me knowing the game I am playing could be my last one in my life," King said. "I just want to do make everything out of it. It felt awesome."On the season, Hoover has four players average double figures in scoring with King leading the way at 15.1 points per game to go along with 12.9 rebounds. Against Clay, King led the way with 14 points and seven boards, Bailey Aab added seven points and eight rebounds, and Caroline Thornburg contributed eight points.In a losing effort for Clay, Barker ended her junior season with 15 points, eight rebounds, seven steals, and five blocks.