For most of Wednesday’s Class AA quarterfinal, No. 8 Bluefield looked like it was poised to become the first team in the history of the girls basketball state tournament to knock off a No. 1 seed in the first round.
But, with 0.3 seconds on the clock, North Marion’s Cara Minor caught an inbound and made the buzzer-beater to send the top-seeded Huskies through to the semifinals with a 56-54 victory over the Beavers.
“I always tell them that when you come down here you have to have a little luck and today was our lucky day,” North Marion coach Mike Parrish said. “We didn’t play well. We started off good and we finished good, but we didn’t play well in between. We’ve got to clean that up and play a full 32 minutes next time.”
Minor’s final-second heroics capped a huge fourth quarter that saw North Marion rally from eight points down heading into the final eight minutes.
After shooting just 26.4 percent in the first three quarters, the Huskies made nine of 12 shots in the fourth — getting several good looks driving to the rim and getting layups as they were on a 14-2 run at one point.
Minor and Hannah Shriver both had eight points during the fourth quarter to lead North Marion’s comeback.
“It just came down to the fact that these kids don’t quit,” Parrish said. “We finally got some energy there in the fourth quarter and battled back and got some things going to give ourselves a chance and we did it on a big shot at the end.”
After weathering the storm of a 9-0 run to open the game by the Huskies, Bluefield bounced right back and jumped into the driver’s seat against the top seed.
Beginning late in the first quarter and into the second, the Beavers went on an 18-3 run to grab the momentum. During that run, Bluefield held North Marion without a field goal for more than 10 minutes, with the Huskies not making a shot from the field until there were 33 seconds left in the half. That’s when Shriver was able to get a couple of quick layups for North Marion that made the deficit five points at the break.
“They play pressure defense and they’re going to make runs like that,” Bluefield coach Tony Mallamaci said. “Teams that play like that will make runs. You just have to withstand those, and we did and we kept fighting back. It just wasn’t quite enough.”
Shriver finished with 21 points while Minor had 14 for the Huskies. Taylor Buonamici added 10 points in the victory.
Jaisah Smith led Bluefield with 18 points and five steals. Autumn Spangler added 15 points and eight rebounds and Carley Moretto finished with 11 points.
North Marion (25-1) will play in the semifinals at 1 p.m. Friday against No. 5 Frankfort, which defeated No. 4 Bridgeport in Wednesday’s late game.