Girls basketball: Knights take step torward goal, top Black Eagles

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Cabell Midland has seldom been known for its prowess on the girls basketball court.Even when the Knights have had State Tournament-worthy squads they have been unfortunate to be in the same section or region as even better teams, namely arch-rival Huntington.Another one of those squads was South Charleston, which three years ago downed the Knights in regional play en route to a Class AAA State Tournament championship game appearance.Monday night, Midland took another step toward erasing the past by rolling over SC, 64-44."We've had our ups and downs," Coach Matt Adkins said. "It helps to have players."Adkins was an assistant coach with the team for seven years before taking over the top spot.One of those 'players' Adkins has been missing the last couple of seasons is senior Grace Jarrell. Due to knee injuries the point guard watched her sophomore and junior years go by from the stands.Against the Black Eagles' full-court defense a good point guard is a must, even in a rebuilding year for SC. "They have an incredible defense," Jarrell said. "They are so fast that they speed up the game so we feel like we have to go, go, go,"Both teams finished with 20 turnovers, a statistic South Charleston (9-10) is usually on the favorable side of by quite a bit. But Cabell Midland (12-5) also realizes the importance of defense and recently was allowing the fewest points per game of any squad in the state. The Knights entered the game giving up an average of 39.6 points per game."We lost our number one spot in the state on defense," Jarrell said. "So we really wanted to hold them down tonight."A quick 9-0 run early in the second quarter was spurred by Midland forcing turnovers and resulted in a 16-15 leading growing to 25-15.
An 11-1 spurt late in the third quarter clinched the outcome.Most of the damage was done inside by junior post players Sierra Jordan and Emily Pitkin."Most times that is our plan," the fifth-year coach said. "We just need a point guard who can get them the ball."
He was referring to Jarrell who only had four points, but dished out 10 assists, made seven steals and had just three turnovers against constant defensive pressure.That helped Pitkin and Jordan finish with 17 and 16 points, respectively."Each of our post players has improved greatly," Jarrell said. "I know they can make it if I can get it to them."Throw in a pair of good perimeter shooters in Alex Ellis and Stephanie Bias and Jarrell hopes this can be the year the Knights are not the odd team out in a sectional that includes other top 10 teams in Huntington and Spring Valley.Huntington beat them by 21 in the second game of the season and the Timberwolves defeated Cabell Midland by just two points on Jan. 23.A dangerous Logan squad is also in the same section.
"We have one of the hardest sectionals in the state," Jarrell said. "But if we can win just one game we can get to the next level."A level that does not seem as far away for the Knights as it once did.Lina Villanueva finished with 12 points and Taliah Cashwell 11 to lead South Charleston. 
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