WAYNE — With Cardinal Conference- and Kanawha Valley-leading scorer Laila Arthur battling flu-like symptoms and fellow senior starter Lindsey Ullman dealing with a sprained ankle, Sissonville gave a valiant effort in a hostile environment on Friday night.
But in rough and tumble Class AA Region 4 Section 1, there is no time — or use — for moral victories.
In ending on a 12-6 run, host No. 5 Wayne bolstered its resume in the race for a coveted top-two seed in sectional play with a rugged 49-44 victory over the No. 8 Indians.
Sissonville (16-4), which fell into a nine-point hole in the second quarter, battled all the way back to take a 38-37 lead midway through the fourth quarter, but watched as five different Pioneers came up with points down the closing stretch on a night when stars from both sides were held in check.
“I felt like we kind of got stagnant there a few times and blew some opportunities,” Wayne coach Wade Williamson said. “We settled down and got in a good set a couple straight possessions there and finally settled down and executed a few things.”
Execution was also at a premium on Friday for both teams, especially on the offensive end. The Indians hit just 15 of 58 shots from the field and Wayne wasn’t much better, going 19 for 52, including 4 for 21 from 3-point range. Wayne leading scorer Lakyn Adkins was held to eight points with Arthur limited to nine.
That opened the door for other players to shine. On the Pioneers’ side it was Sarah Hooks, who led the scoring with 13 points with eight from Haley Wallace and seven apiece from Whitney Sansom and Jasmine Tabor off the bench.
But Wallace’s most significant contribution came on the defensive end. Sissonville coach Rich Skeen nearly didn’t play Arthur, who had a temperature of 102 on Friday afternoon and hadn’t held down food since breakfast on Wednesday morning.
Her health certainly limited Arthur, who scored nine points and averaged just over 24 per game entering Friday, but so did Wallace, who was stuffed in her hip pocket for 32 grueling minutes. Arthur, who spent every break in play with her hands on her knees, shot just 2 of 9 from the field and went 0 for 4 from the 3-point line, from where she’s usually deadly.
“Haley is good for that stuff,” Williamson said. “She’s held other people down. We did a pretty good job on her, I know she’s not 100-percent healthy, but I certainly ain’t going to take anything away from our kids. We helped out well on her and made other people step up and make plays.”
Zoey McCutcheon nearly did just that as she came off the bench to lead Sissonville in scoring with 11 points, including three of Sissonville’s five treys. She nailed a fourth in the final moments, but Skeen had called timeout as the ball was being released, negating a shot that would’ve cut the Wayne lead to two.
She also came up with five big rebounds on a night in which Sissonville controlled the glass, getting 10 boards apiece from Arthur and Marleigh Bays.
“Zoey is very capable of it,” Skeen said. “She’s just a gamer, she really is, it doesn’t matter what sport she plays. Tonight, we sucked it up. We probably shouldn’t have held it that tight, but no moral victories.
“We’ve got some things to shore up,” Skeen added. “Lord, it comes down to it again — turnovers — and we just had too many of them. You’re taking shots away from yourself and they’re unforced.”
To Skeen’s point, the Indians turned the ball over 24 times compared to 14 for Wayne (17-3), a trend that has cost Sissonville dearly in each of its four losses.Friday’s result is bound to loom large in two weeks, with both teams playing their last marquee game before sectional voting is due at noon on Tuesday.
Four teams in the section entered the week in the top 10, with Winfield coming in at No. 6 and Nitro at No. 9. Home court in the do-or-die semifinals will go to the top two seeds as well as a first-round bye.
Sissonville still has a date at Nitro next Wednesday, but that result won’t affect voting with all 12 coaches from the region voting on the other 11 schools in order by Tuesday.
Friday’s loss stung for Sissonville, which is now 1-3 against the other top-tier teams in the section, with only an early-season win over Nitro to its credit.
The Wildcats will play at Winfield on Monday night in a pivotal contest that could help clear matters up or muddy them even further.
A win by the Generals would give Winfield a 4-1 mark against the other three, and added to that is a marquee win over Logan as well as nonconference victories over Morgantown and Bluefield. With that resume, the Generals would seem to have the best claim to the top seed.
But a Nitro win would give the Wildcats a sweep of the Generals to go with a split with Wayne, making the Wildcats 3-2 against the other three and would also likely bring Wayne back into the conversation for the top seed. The Pioneers split a pair of games with Nitro, beat Sissonville and lost to Winfield.
Even after Friday’s result, things are still relatively up in the air, but one thing is for sure — a lot of eyes will be in Winfield on Monday.
“I don’t know, I don’t think anybody will know,” Skeen said. “I think it’s the toughest section in the state. There might be some better teams, but it’s the toughest section in the state, and how it’s going to play out, who knows?”
Alexis Bailey and Sydney Farmer each scored eight points for the Indians.