During a fourth-quarter timeout in Thursday morning’s Class AA state quarterfinal game at the Charleston Coliseum and Convention Center, Wayne sophomore guard Haley Wallace shadowed Sissonville senior Laila Arthur to the Indians’ sideline during a meeting between Arthur and Indians girls basketball coach Rich Skeen.
Even during breaks in play, Arthur couldn’t shake the Pioneers’ shutdown defender.
And so it was in three games, two Wayne home wins and in Thursday’s 47-40 victory for the Pioneers that sent Wayne into the Class AA semifinals for the second straight year. No. 3 Wayne (23-3) will play No. 2 Wyoming East at 11:15 a.m. Friday. Wyoming East defeated Bridgeport 53-31 Thursday afternoon.
“We talk about holding people to 40,” Wayne coach Wade Williamson said. “I think we’ve done a pretty good job this year. I think we’re averaging giving up 44 points a game. We feel like if we keep people in the 40s, we have a good chance to win and we stress that a pretty good bit in practice. We try to make people who aren’t used to shooting the ball shoot the ball.”
Arthur, who will play at West Virginia University next year, scored nine, 17 and 11 points in the Indians’ three games with Wayne as the Pioneers used Wallace and some timely double-teams and help defense to derail any Sissonville offensive rhythm.
“I think her size has a lot to do with it,” Arthur said of Wallace. “Where she’s smaller, it’s easier for her to get down low and guard me, especially with another girl coming to trap me. They do a really good job.
“It’s hard to get past somebody when you have two people on you constantly.”
In a game that produced some statistical anomalies, the Indians were able to hang in with Wayne largely due to the Pioneers’ inept foul shooting (Wayne went 9 for 25 from the line) and due to hitting 6 of 11 shots from 3-point range.
Two of those deep balls came at the beginning of the fourth quarter with Lindsey Ullman and Alexis Bailey hitting back-to-back treys to give Sissonville a 37-36 lead with 6:24 remaining.
But after harassing the Indians defensively throughout the first half, Wayne locked down again over the stretch, holding Sissonville (21-6) without a field goal the rest of the way, and the Pioneers made enough free throws to earn a hard-earned third win over their Cardinal Conference rival.
While Sissonville hit six 3s, it managed just five baskets inside the arc, going 5 for 35. Turnovers again plagued the Indians as Sissonville committed 23 miscues, with 12 of those coming in the first half.
Wayne also collected 24 offensive rebounds and held the advantage on the glass 47-40. While the Pioneers only led in second-chance points 16-13, those extra possessions resulted in 14 more field-goal attempts and allowed Wayne to milk clock along the way.
Wayne (23-3) led by as many as nine in the second quarter and by seven at halftime at 23-16. Sissonville took its first lead late in the third quarter on an Arthur 3 with 2:09 left to make the score 30-29.
But Arthur picked up her third foul shortly after, forcing Skeen to bring her to the bench until the fourth quarter. From there, Wayne outscored the Indians 7-1 as it shifted to a half-court trap with the Indians’ primary ball-handler out of the game.
“I think our half-court trap in the fourth quarter gave them a few problems,” Williamson said. “We hadn’t really shown that much this year. That was a big turning point for us.”
Skeen said he debated leaving Arthur in, but past experience in similar situations swayed him in the other direction.
“Laila has lied to me so many times when she’s picked up a third one,” Skeen said. “In hindsight, I maybe should’ve left her in but I didn’t know if I could trust her or not. I just didn’t want her to get her fourth, that would’ve changed everything coming out for the fourth [quarter].”
Lakyn Adkins finished with 15 points, 15 rebounds and five assists for Wayne with Alana Eves adding 11 points. Wallace contributed 11 rebounds, all of which came on the offensive end.
Bailey led Sissonville with 13 points with Marleigh Bays adding eight points and eight rebounds.
Thursday’s loss closed the book on the season and the prep careers of Arthur, Ullman and Bays. The three helped drive the Indians back to the state tournament after losing three starters and a sixth man a year ago.
In doing so, Sissonville finally exorcised its demons in a road win at Winfield and went on the road and beat Cardinal Conference champion Chapmanville in a regional co-final.
“These two are my best friends and just playing with them and them both starting, it’s just really special,” Arthur said. “We accomplished so much this year that we or anybody thought we could do so I’m just proud we proved some people wrong by getting here.”