The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

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February 20, 2013

Valley’s Cantrell notches 1st tournament win

SMITHERS — Off the top of his head, Richie Cantrell couldn’t remember his team’s overall record.

However, he was sure of one thing following Valley’s matchup with Meadow Bridge in a Class A Region 3, Section 2 girls basketball semifinal Tuesday.

“Right now, we’re 1-0,” exclaimed the first-year Greyhound coach.

No. 2 seed Valley (12-6) jumped ahead early, withstood a brief second-quarter flurry by Class A No. 10 Meadow Bridge and controlled the action  in the second half en route to a 63-53 triumph to set up a Section 2 championship matchup versus top-seeded Fayetteville Thursday at the Fayette County Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Building. The Pirates defeated Midland Trail 53-43 Tuesday.

“Our senior players held the line and our younger players stepped up,” said Cantrell. “The key was following our shots and getting secondary rebounds, and we limited (Meadow Bridge’s) number of shots.”

“It seemed like they were just one step ahead of us all night,” said Meadow Bridge coach Steve Taylor. “I tried to use my timeouts to keep (the score) inside 10, but hats off to Valley.

“They did a great job.”

Valley used one good surge to basically  put the game away. After the Wildcats’ Sarah Fleshman scored a two-pointer to pull her team to within three points, 26-23, with about 4:30 left in the first half, Valley closed the half with 11 consecutive points to take command with a 37-23 halftime lead.

Alexis Payne initiated the crucial spurt with a putback at the 4:20 mark and followed that with a runner in the lane 50 seconds later, making it 30-23. Teammate Kelsey Bird then scored a two-point goal, which was followed by an Abby Buchan 3-pointer and a Meadow Bridge timeout.

Payne finished the run - and a 19-point first half for the senior standout - with another offensive putback to create the 14-point halftime cushion. Buchan supported Payne’s scoring with 11 points of her own in the opening two quarters.

“Everything Payne was throwing up went in,” said an exasperated Taylor. “Then, we put two (defenders) on her in the second half, and Buchan hurt us.”

While Payne was scoreless in the second half, Buchan helped kick the Valley transition game into high gear during that span by scoring 20 of her game-high 31 points.

“We got what we call our transition offense going and filled the lanes,” said Cantrell. “I think we’re peaking at the right time.”

Valley’s lead reached 17 points on three different occasions in the second half before Meadow Bridge cut into the deficit slightly in the closing minutes.

Caitlin White tallied 14 points to pace Meadow Bridge. Fleshman chipped in 12,  Allison Gilkerson 10 and Ally Redden eight. Leading scorer Chandra Harrah was limited to four points - partly due to illness she’s been suffering and partly due to dogged defense provided by Valley’s Alaysha Taylor, whom Cantrell praised for her efforts.

“She’s really come forward,” Cantrell said. “She didn’t complain, and she worked hard.”

“Chandra’s been seeing a lot of box-and-one the last month,” Taylor said. “She showed up to play.

“Anybody that scores 1,400 (career points), that’s amazing.”

Meadow Bridge ends its season at 16-6.

“I‘m really proud of our girls,” said Taylor. “We’ll be back.”

Fayetteville and Valley split during the regular season, with the Greyhounds winning 55-52  on Dec. 17 and the Pirates whipping Valley 66-45 on Jan. 28.

Thursday’s game will tip at 7 p.m.

Meadow Bridge (16-6)

Chandra Harrah 1 2-2 4, Sarah Fleshman 5 2-4 12, Allison Gilkerson 3 3-5 10, Ally Redden 4 0-0 8, Caitlin White 5 3-4 14, Courtney Mullins 1 0-0 2, Sam Adkins 0 0-0 0, Brittany Pennington 1 0-0 3, Mary Winters 0 0-0 0, Erica Pugh 0 0-0 0. Totals: 20 10-15 53.

Valley (12-6)

Alexis Payne 8 3-3 19,  Abby Buchan 11 7-8 31, Kelsey Bird 3 0-0 7, Gracyn Grubb 1 0-2 2, Emily Beard 1 0-2 2, Emily Smallman 1 0-0 2, Tennel Green 0 0-0 0, Lauren Pleva 0 0-0 0, Alaysha Taylor 0 0-0 0, Chelsey Lively 0 0-0 0. Totals: 25 10-15 63.

MB       11        12        16        14        —        53

V        17        20        14        12        —        63

3-point goals — MB: 3 (Gilkerson, White, Pennington); V: 3 (Buchan 2, Bird). Fouled out - None.

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