COVID impedes postseason effort for third straight year

Pocahontas Times
Pocahontas Times

Bruce McKean

Contributing Writer

PCHS V, 48

Tygarts Valley V, 51

We will never know for sure just how far the last three Pocahontas County High School girls basketball teams might have advanced in the postseason if the COVID pandemic had never happened. Two years ago, PCHS coaches Mike Kane, Allen Taylor and Chloe Bland had high hopes of the 2019-20 PCHS girls basketball team making it beyond the first round at states.

PCHS still competed in Region III Section 1 that season, and current seniors Makayla Ervine, Ma-aden Taylor and Allyson Alder- man were sophomores on the varsity roster, and all five had broken one or more records. Those girls advanced to states by beating Webster County 48-33 and Charleston Catholic 41-33 in sectionals and then knocking off Greenbrier West 77-40 in regionals, and all games were played at PCHS. #4 seed PCHS (21-4) was in their Charleston hotel ready to play #5 seed Summers County (19-6) on the second day of states after splitting wins in the regular season, but our governor cancelled the tournament midday before their 9 p.m. game due to the threat of COVID in surrounding states.

The next season, 2020-21, was obviously a huge rebuilding year, and COVID shortened and delayed the season. #3 seed PCHS (6-8) upset #2 seed Tygarts Valley (8-7) 37-29 to open sectional play in the first year back in Region II. Senior Kierston Taylor missed most of the season due to COVID caution, and she was the game-high scorer (14 points including four threes), plus seniors Sienna Bircher (12 points and 16 rebounds) and Tessa Kiner (seven points and eight rebounds) were the next game-high scorers. COVID caused PCHS to forfeit playing unranked Pendleton County in the Section 2 championship, and PCHS had only lost to the Wildcats by 5 points, 25-30, in their only regular season game. PCHS (6-10) then had to play at #2 ranked (AP Poll) Tucker County (16-4) in regionals and lost 57-23. Tucker went on and lost in the semi-finals at states to Tug Valley 49-41 who had only two losses at that point and won the state championship.

This year PCHS was minus those three seniors from last season but they were not minus COVID which quarantined the head coach and players for five days of missed games and practices just before sectionals started. February 22, at Mill Creek, #3 seed PCHS (now 7-14, 2-9 PVC) nearly upset the #2 seed Lady Bulldogs (now 10-8, 7-5 PVC) for the second year in a row. TVHS opened on a 6-0 run, and by the first quarter’s end PCHS was only down 11-8.

Ervine and sophomore Olivia Vandevender led the Warriors with seven points each in the 16-13 second canto (team nailed 6 of 14 field goal attempts for 43 percent) that resulted in a 24-24 tie at the half. The lead changed seven times in the second stanza including a second tie at 17-17, and seven Bulldogs scored vs only three Warriors.

PCHS made 33 percent of their field goals (seven of 21) in their best third period recently, taking it 20-13 with Vandevender hitting three treys. The lead changed five times early and was tied at 26-26. PCHS never trailed in the third after senior Macaden Taylor nailed a two for a 31-30 lead. The scoring of five Warriors sent PCHS into the final frame leading by seven points, 44-37.

The fourth frame opened with junior Haley Spencer hitting one of two free throws to up our lead to the biggest lead of the game, eight points, 45-37. TVHS then went on a 9-0 run with five points from sophomore Isabelle Shumate and took the lead 46-45. A three by Alderman who was heavily guarded and her only score of the game, gave us the lead at 48-46. Shumate sank a two for the 48-48 last tie with 2:40 to go in the game. TCHS then missed two foul shots followed by two PCHS missed foul shots. With about 35 seconds to go, Macaden Taylor got her fourth foul, and junior Kendal Cutright hit both foul shots for the 50-48 lead.  With 30 seconds to go Taylor again had to stop the clock, and she fouled out. Junior Abigail Cabaniss hit one of two foul shots for the final 51-48 win. With 3.2 seconds to go, Cabaniss grabbed her rebound on her second missed foul shot.  TVHS had their best effort in the fourth, winning it 14-4, and PCHS shot just eight percent (one of eight field goal attempts). Both teams grabbed 35 rebounds in the game – a great effort for shorter PCHS.

Game high scorer was Vandevender with 20 points, three of four free throws, seven of 15 field goal attempts (47 percent) and the most steals with three. Ervine scored 10 points. Macaden Taylor tallied 14 rebounds, seven points, four deflections and all our team’s five blocks. Alderman had a team-high six assists and four deflections. Junior Felicity Walden led TVHS with 10 points and seven rebounds; senior Landrie Lanham had 10 points and six assists. Cabaniss was held to nine points, 11 rebounds and five steals. PCHS was called for 18 fouls and made nine of 17 foul shots, while TVHS was called for 11 fouls and made 11 of 22. The PCHS coaches felt it was the best effort of the season that just fell short in the final seconds of the game.

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