Alexander comes from behind to defeat Huntington, Oak Hill blows out Nelsonville-York; Lady Spartans and Lady Oaks to meet for D-III district title.
Shayne Combs checks in with the details
WAVERLY – The Lady Huntsmen of Huntington lived at the foul line for much of the second quarter building a 22-15 halftime advantage.
That lead grew to nine a few times in the second half, but Alexander’s pressure defense started to take its toll in the game’s final period as the Lady Spartans scored the game’s final 12 points to secure the 40-37 win.
Game two at Waverly’s Downtown Gymnasium had Nelsonville-York trying to set-up an all Tri Valley Conference district final with Alexander, but Oak Hill proved to be too much. The Lady Oaks jumped out early to a double-digit advantage and were never really threatened on their way to a 69-44 Division III district semifinal victory.
With Alexander leading 11-7 after one, Huntington took control in the second quarter by getting to the charity stripe. Huntington’s Lydia Bridenbaugh proved to be a very difficult match-up in the early going for Alexander, and as a result, the Lady Huntsmen found themselves in the bonus with over seven minutes remaining in the first half. Uncharacteristically, a Huntington team that is usually rock-solid at the free throw line made only half of its 14 second-quarter free throw attempts. The teams went to the half with Huntington leading 22-15, but Alexander head coach Denton Guthrie realized they were fortunate to only be down seven.
“We put Huntington on the free throw line way too much in the first half,” said Coach Guthrie. “We know from our scouting that they are much better than they shot from the line today, so we felt confident at the half about our adjustments.
“We play an aggressive style of defense, but we were just a little out of position in the first half,” Guthrie continued. “Later in the game, we were able to get in some better match-ups, and I thought we were able to turn up our pressure without fouling.”
The pressure that the Alexander coach is talking about really started playing a role in the final four minutes of the game. After Janea Cockrell fed Bridenbaugh for an old-fashioned three and Manessa Zimmerman scored as well, the Huntsmen had matched their biggest lead at 37-28 with 4:33 remaining; however, Huntington would not score again.
The Alexander comeback started at the free throw line. Solid free throw shooting from Kaitlyn Guthrie and Whitney Smith helped trim the Huntington lead all the way down to 37-35 when Lacy Shaulis made a great pass inside to Smith for a field goal to tie the game.
After Bridenbaugh missed the front end of a one-and-one, Smith was fouled on a shot with 35.8 seconds remaining. Smith made both free throws giving Alexander the lead at 39-37 – its first lead since midway through the second period.
Huntington’s Jess Fraley had a look at a potential go-ahead three-pointer, but the attempt did not go down and Huntington was forced to send Alexander’s Guthrie back to the line. The 5-6 sophomore made the first one to make it a three-point game, but then her second attempt was no good. Huntington would have had a chance to get one last shot with 5.1 seconds remaining, but the rebound turned into a loose ball out-of-bounds leaving Huntington only 0.7 seconds to go the length of the floor.
Huntington tried to hit Bridenbaugh at half court, but the pass was broken up as the buzzer sounded. The Lady Huntsmen end their fine season at 19-3. The green and white was led by Fraley’s 13 points and Bridenbaugh’s 12 points as the fine senior duo played their final high school game.
Alexander was led by Smith with 14 points. The Lady Spartans improved to 14-8 with Saturday’s win.
Alexander and Oak Hill will return to Waverly next Saturday to play for a spot in this year’s sweet-sixteen. The tip-time for that championship contest is slated for 4:00 P.M. These two met earlier this season with Coach Doug Hale’s Oak Hill team winning 54-31.