Midland storms past St. Albans
Summer Stephenson was hoping to do something special for Cabell Midland's seniors Thursday night.
Boy, did the sophomore deliver, scoring all 15 of her points in the second half in sending the Knights to the state tournament with a 52-42 come-from-behind victory over No. 7 St. Albans in the Class AAA Region 4 co-final.
A raucous crowd of about 800 attended the matchup of Mountain State Athletic Conference West Division foes at the Tex McCue Williams Gymnasium.
Midland (18-6), which finished the regular season unranked in the Associated Press poll (although it spent parts of the year in the top 10), won't know its seed or matchup for next week's state tournament until after tonight's lone AAA game, which pits George Washington at No. 2 Greenbrier East in the other Region 4 co-final.
The Knights were coming off an overtime loss to No. 5 Huntington in last week's sectional championship game. Midland's last trip to states came in 1994, the school's inaugural year after the consolidation of Barboursville and Milton High Schools.
"They just started flowing,'' said Stephenson, who missed her only shot attempt in the opening half, then made 6 of 8 in the second half. "I was just shooting the ball. It felt really good.
"I'm proud of our team. We played together and pulled it out. I love my seniors. Without them, we wouldn't be doing anything. They mean a lot to us. They encourage us a lot. If we make a bad pass, they come up to us and tell us, 'It's all right, it's all right. We'll get that for you. Just keep on playing hard.'''
SA scored the first four points of the third quarter to take a nine-point lead (28-19) behind junior guard Lexi Cooper's 3-pointer and sophomore point guard Torri Wilson's baseline jumper. The Red Dragons seemed to be gaining control, but Stephenson drained a 3 and followed that up with a jump shot to ignite an 8-0 run that gave the Knights a 30-29 edge and put them back in the game.
Then Midland seized the upper hand for good as Stephenson and sophomore guard Haley Haggerty drained back-to-back 3s to start the fourth quarter for a 41-34 advantage.
The Red Dragons went on a short run to close within five points (44-39) on junior post Breanna Propst's driving basket and sophomore forward Cameron Davis' three-point play on a layup and foul shot with 3:43 left in the game.
Midland left a crack in the door for SA with about 90 seconds to go, missing back-to-back 1-plus-1 free-throw attempts, but the Red Dragons either missed a close bucket or turned the ball over.
"I just think we wanted it more,'' said Midland coach Matt Adkins. "It got physical. I thought Haley in the first half was playing a little ... but she picked it up and came through.''
Midland 6-foot-2 senior Emily Pitkin contributed 12 points, 10 rebounds and three blocks, and 5-11 senior Sierra Jordan added 10 points, 10 boards and three blocks.
SA shot just 20 percent (4 of 20) and committed 10 turnovers in the second half. Propst and Cooper finished with a team high nine points for the Red Dragons, who won at Midland 55-43 a few weeks ago. Davis contributed 12 rebounds.
" There for a stretch, we were giving [Cabell Midland] second and third chances,'' said SA coach Scott James, whose team lost its second straight regional co-final on its home floor.
"We weren't boxing out very well and they got hot on the perimeter. With their inside game if they're hitting shots, it's going to be tough to beat them. They came and outplayed us. ''
SA, though, has a lot to look forward to with just one senior graduating after the girls program posted the most wins in two decades.
"It all depends on what the girls do in the offseason,'' James said. "They've got to remember what this feeling's like. They've got to hate this feeling bad enough where they're going to do everything within their power to where this doesn't happen again.''
Reach Tommy R. Atkinson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-4811.