Charleston — The last two years Pocahontas County and Summers County have met in the Class A Region 3 co-championship in a win or go home scenario.
This year both teams avoided that.
Instead they'll meet in the first round of the Class A state playoffs on Thursday at 9 p.m. in the Charleston Coliseum with similar stakes — winner advances to the Class A semifinal while the loser calls it a season.
During the regular season the two teams played twice with Summers winning 66-51 at home on Dec. 21 and Pocahontas County returning the favor on it's own turf, 60-52, on Jan. 10.
Despite the familiarity and even play between the two teams the Lady Bobcats have something the Lady Warriors don't — experience on the the state's biggest stage.
"I think it's a tremendous advantage," Summers County head coach Chad Meador said. "The background and noise levels are different. Nerves are different. When you've been there before you know what to expect. Gavin (Pivont) and Taylor (Isaac) have played a lot up there but so have Maggie (Stover) and Riley (Richmond)."
Despite an edge in experience, Meador's Lady Bobcats still have their hands full.
Laila Calhoun (15.5 ppg) and Kira Bircher (11.6 ppg) lead the scoring charge for Pocahontas County with Charity Warder adding eight points and seven rebounds per game.
"They probably know us better than any team we play," Meador said. "They play a very aggressive half court one. Warder is a great passer, Bircher ripped us at Pocahontas County when we played there earlier in the year. I expect them to do a lot of the same things."
Though Summers has heavy hitters of its own.
All-state guard Taylor Isaac led the Lady Bobcats in scoring at 21.5 point per game while fellow all-stater Gavin Pivont chipped in 17.6 points and 9.5 rebounds per game. The two played major minutes in the 2018 tournament where they advanced to the semifinals and scored 20 and 18 points, respectively, in last year's quarterfinal loss to Parkersburg Catholic.
"They've grown," Meador said "Their mental toughness is at a whole new level than what it was last year. Everyone else feeds off their success. They make us go. They're going to have to have big games, but we need to have others score. We need that collective measure like we've had all year long.
"We have to shoot well. Against Charleston Catholic we shot 28 percent from the floor and we have to match the runs. We have to rebound well too. We have to limit second chance opportunities and if we can do that, I like our chances."
For Meador and Co., transition defense will be just as key as any part of offense.
"You have to close out on their shooters," Meador said. "We have to get back defensively and have to identify where their shooters are. The last time we played them, they ran out on us alot. We'll be ready for that this time. We're going to come to play."
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