NITRO, W. Va. —Credit the Point Pleasant Lady Knights for at least putting forth a late charge.
Unfortunately, it followed a myriad of turnovers that dug them too deep a deficit.
Hindered by a 26-10 halftime hole, the young Lady Knights’ season came to an end on Monday night at Nitro High School, as the host Wildcats captured a 40-29 victory in a Class AAA, Region IV, Section 1 girls basketball tournament tilt.
With the loss, the senior-less Lady Knights ended their season at 3-17, while Nitro — having defeated Point Pleasant for the third time this year — improved to 8-13.
In the first two outings, the Wildcats rolled the Lady Knights 64-22 (Dec. 4) and 69-31 (Feb. 3).
The tournament contest was much different — and Point Pleasant pulled to within single digits at 35-26 with four minutes and 12 seconds remaining.
“The first two times this year they (Wildcats) beat us bad. We still went through our droughts tonight, but the second half we won 19-14,” said PPHS coach John Fields. “It’s a matter of learning to play the game, learning to be smart with the ball. We did a much better job of that in the second half.”
However, the Lady Knights didn’t score again until only 26 seconds were left — on a Michaela Cottrill free throw following an intentional foul.
Cottrill scored the final Point Pleasant points with 20 seconds to play, as the Lady Knights nearly put Nitro on upset alert.
The Lady Knights actually outscored the Wildcats 19-14 in the second half, but were done in from the get-go by being outscored 15-3 in the first quarter.
The obvious issue was turnovers — as it has been for the club all year.
As a result, Nitro rolled out to four 18-point leads (26-8, 28-10, 30-12 and 32-14) over a span of four minutes and 35 seconds.
“We start a game as though we’ve never had practice. That’s been all season long,” said Fields.
Nitro scored the game’s first five points, as Allison Henderson had the first field goal for Point Pleasant at the 5:45 mark of the opening quarter.
But the Lady Knights never got closer, scoring one other point in the first period on a Peyton Campbell free throw with two minutes left.
The Lady Knights made it 15-6 only 15 seconds into the second stanza — on a banked-in three-pointer by Ashlie Flory.
However, that was as close as they got until 35-26, as the only other second-period points were field goals by Cottrill (5:15) and Skylar Woodall (48 seconds).
Nitro led 32-14 with 4:34 left in the third quarter, but eight unanswered Point Pleasant points trimmed the deficit to 10 (32-22) a full four minutes later.
Morgan Roush scored on back-to-back baskets, then Woodall and Henderson had field goals to make it 32-22.
But Nitro’s Victoria Porterfield — who poured in a game-high 24 points on six total field goals and 11-of-17 free throws — popped the team’s only three-point goal with 10 seconds left to stop the run.
In the fourth quarter, Cottrill split a pair of free throws before Campbell canned a three, getting the Lady Knights to within nine.
But Point Pleasant came up empty on its next five possessions, as Emmalee Hinkley had a bucket for the Wildcats with 1:53 to play.
Porterfield, who scored 14 first-half points followed by seven more in the third frame, made 3-of-4 free throws in the next minute and 17 seconds to seal the win.
Brooke Entemann, on three field goals and 2-of-4 first-quarter free throws, added eight points for the Wildcats.
Hinkley scored six points on three field goals, while Brooke Vogel had the opening field goal for Nitro.
Fields said he is optimistic about improvement in the program next season, but it’s up to the Lady Knights “to put in the work.”
“We’re young. We have two juniors and they will be our only seniors next year. Everybody else is a freshman and one sophomore. We’ll be back and we’ll just keep working and working,” said Fields. “We have a lot to learn about the game, not just with the skills but thinking the game and we’ll work on that over the summer. That’s when you get better. From November until now, that’s when we work on plays and work on making a team. I tell the girls it’s an individual commitment. They have to be committed to being a better player. Hopefully, it will show next year when we get started.”
Paul Boggs can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2106
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