HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — Last week, Huntington survived arguably the toughest section in the state with three of the four teams being ranked, and another having been ranked most of the season.
The Highlanders' path to the state tournament was a lot easier in the regionals.
Huntington forced 13 turnovers in the first quarter and led by 23 en route to an easy 83-43 victory over Winfield in the Region 4 co-final Wednesday. The Highlanders improve to 21-4 and advance to the state tournament next week at the Charleston Civic Center. Seedings will take place at the end of the week.
"It feels good to get back," said Huntington coach Lonnie Lucas of the state tournament. "Hopefully we will do a little playing when we get there. We figured if we played halfway decent, we would be all right.
"The kids played hard and did the things they were supposed to do," he continued. "It was good that all the kids got to play. For the seniors, it's the last game in this gym."
In winning the section that included No. 3 Spring Valley, No. 10 Logan, and a Cabell Midland team Huntington beat in the sectional final in overtime, the No. 5 Highlanders' reward was avoiding a trip to a ranked St. Albans team.
"We've had a good two weeks," Lucas said. "We felt going in there was four teams that could really play. We matched up fine against Logan, and against idland, that was a real tough game."
Against Winfield Wednesday night, things got much easier for Huntington, especially after a first quarter that saw the Highlanders force a slew of Winfield turnovers, go 13-for-18 from the floor on 11 assists and lead 28-5.
The second quarter was more of the same for Huntington, outscoring the Generals by 10 to lead 46-13.
"We jumped on them early," Lucas said. "That is always nice when you can get a 20-point lead. Tonight, we felt pretty good with how we played. That was where we was playing what we was capable of."
Winfield leading scorer Haylea Roberson tried to keep her team somewhat in the game in the third quarter, scoring 14 of her team high 18 points, but it wasn't enough against a potent Highlander team that had five double-digit scorers. Lacy Johnson led Huntington with 22 points, Ericka Budd added 15, Dazha Congleton 13, with Lexi Sheffield and Jordyn Dawson contributing 12 points each. The Highlanders went 39-65 from the floor and connected on nine 3-pointers.
Winfield coach Tim Toler knew it would take an outstanding effort for his Generals to knock off Huntington.
"We knew they were more quicker that us, a little more athletic than us, and we would have to play the perfect game to make it a game," Toler said. "They have a very good team and I would not be surprised to see them in the championship game."
An emotional Toler, though, was very proud of his team's acccomplishment, getting one game away from the state tournament.
"For us to get to the regional championship game, I'm extremely proud," Toler said. "Nobody outside this locker room gave us a shot at making it to this game before the season. To make it to this game was a huge accomplishment for our girls.
"Would we have liked to have played better? Absolutely. But we came out in the first week of the season and only had nine girls. Making it here goes to show the hard work, dedication, and character of my girls. I love them to death."