CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Winfield won by the slimmest of margins as the Generals girls basketball team narrowly defeated favored Nitro to advance in sectional play on Wednesday night.The Generals led for much of the Class AAA Region 4 Section 1 contest before surrendering the advantage late in the fourth quarter. Winfield reclaimed the lead but needed a series of steals, tips and Nitro missed shots to cement the win, 57-56. With the win, the Generals advance to the sectional championship to play at St. Albans at 7 p.m. Friday."Too much excitement for me," Winfield coach Tim Toler said. "I thought, at times, we were going to settle down and start playing pretty decent basketball, and then we would make a couple bonehead moves and turn the ball over. They came down and capitalized on a lot of our turnovers. They got a good ball team."Facing a one-point deficit, Nitro (15-8) found several opportunities to take the lead in the final 30 seconds against Winfield (12-11) yet missed shots, poor passes or turnovers inhibited the Wildcats from taking advantage. Nitro senior Bethany Hill made a basket with 29 seconds remaining, cutting the Winfield lead to one. Seven seconds later, Hill secured a steal in the Generals' lane.
Wildcats coach Will Samuel called a timeout with 14.4 seconds left. Nitro missed on its ensuing 3-point shot, as the rebound bounced into the hands of Winfield's Katie Bryant. After being fouled, Bryant missed the front end of a one-and-one opportunity. Samuel called another timeout with 3.9 seconds as Nitro secured the rebound.The Wildcats attempted to inbound the ball, though it was deflected from the floor near midcourt by the Generals. With two-tenths of a second remaining in the game, Nitro looked to inbound near midcourt, but Winfield again intercepted the path of the pass to thwart any shot attempt."It was a tough one, it really was," Samuel said. "Winfield played a good game. We played a good game. It just came down to the wire. Winfield plays as hard as any other team I've seen play. We played hard. It was just two teams out there scrapping and it came down to the wire, and they pulled it out."Nitro played just six players, with four reaching double digits in scoring, including Savannah Shamblin who led all scorers with 17. Still, Samuel said the Wildcats struggled to find points when needed most."We had a lot of open looks and they just didn't go down," he said. "It's just one of those nights where you're fighting for the ball to go in the hole. It's not really what you're doing on offense, it's just actually making it go in was the struggle tonight."A solid defensive effort by Winfield proved key, too, Toler said."It was all about our defense, I felt like," he said. "Even though we did give up 56 points, I still think our defensive effort is probably what kept us rolling."With opportunities for both teams in the final minute, Bryant agreed with Toler, her coach, that defense made the difference."I think we just played really hard and stepped up our defense," she said. "We just knew what we had to do when we came here and we pulled it off."No play or points came with ease for Winfield, though, especially inside against Nitro's top post player Tiffany Reavis, who recorded 15 points and 16 rebounds.For much of the game, Generals senior Chelsea Kirby, who tallied nine points and 12 rebounds, faced the unenviable task of guarding Reavis.
"She is a tough competitor," Kirby said of Reavis. "We were going at it. I give her props. The game could have went either way. Once again, we just had heart to come back in the fourth quarter and win it."The loss marked the finish to an otherwise successful season for Nitro, but with players like Reavis, as well as Shamblin, returning, the Wildcats look to a bright future."I'm looking forward to having her back next year," Samuel said of Reavis. "She's just a brute. She's real strong. It's hard to get her off the blocks, so she's going to get a lot of offensive rebounds. She plans on getting in here this offseason and working on her post moves, so I look for a big year out of her next year."