Buckhannon-Upshur has been a fixture in recent girls basketball state tournaments, including a loss in the championship game last season.
This season the Buccaneers have the look of a team that can go all the way.
That journey began Wednesday as the Class AAA No. 1 Bucs beat No. 8 Spring Mills 76-31 in the state quarterfinals at the Charleston Civic Center.
“Four years ago we were the No. 8 seed playing the No. 1 seed — a Morgantown team that was very good, maybe one of the best teams I’ve ever seen — and we got beat by 46 points,” B-U coach Jeremy Maxwell said. “I told George [Gosk], the Spring Mills coach, we were in that situation four years ago and I think he’s doing all the right things, things that we’re doing.
“Four years, if you look at the grand scheme of things, we went from being an 8-seed with a 46-point loss and maybe some people saying, ‘They don’t deserve to be here,’ to a 1 [seed] and another dominant performance in the first round.”
Senior guard Hanna McClung led top-ranked B-U with 18 points in the win.
The Buccaneers set a AAA state tournament team record with 30 steals, and Lauren Bennett set the individual game state tournament mark at 12. Bennett also chipped in with 12 points.
“It’s what we do,” Maxwell said. “Once we adjust, it’s what we do. We really take [defense] to heart. When people score on me, it really hurts me. Like, it physically hurts when people score on me and I think these girls do too.”
B-U (25-1) raced out to a 17-3 lead going into the second quarter and led the Cardinals 31-17 at the half on its way to securing a spot in Friday’s state semifinal round.
For Spring Mills (12-14), Jada Brooks finished with nine points and 10 rebounds while teammate Emily Garland chipped in with eight points. The Cardinals turned the ball over 35 times, resulting in 40 B-U points.
“We knew what Buckhannon-Upshur was going to do to us,” Gosk said. “We knew they were going to press us full-court. Obviously we practiced and prepared for it. There were times the last week where we go against eight people on defense, sometimes with a flat ball to try to simulate their pressure. I thought early on we did a good job breaking it but we weren’t able to finish some shots.”
Buckhannon-Upshur will play in the semifinals at 5:30 p.m. Friday against No. 4 Wheeling Park, which defeated No. 5 George Washington 59-49 in Thursday’s quarterfinals.