Hinton — Punching a ticket to the state tournament isn’t easy.
Summers County head coach Chad Meador knows that better than anyone, but that knowledge alone isn’t enough.
“Coach (Wayne) Ryan told me something long ago,” Meador said. “He told me you either see the light or you feel the heat and we looked up at the scoreboard and felt the heat.”
Trailing 39-31 late in the fourth quarter, that heat was enough to spark the host Lady Bobcats to a 47-43 overtime win over a young Charleston Catholic team in the Class A Region 3 co-final, sending Summers to the Class A state tournament for the fifth straight season.
”I saw a team that executed their game plan,” Meador said of Catholic. “I saw a team that was very well prepared and coached. I saw a coaching staff that had us scouted down to the pass, and sometimes the best team doesn’t always win, but I thought the most experienced team was able to win tonight.”
Summers’ second win of the season over the Irish wasn’t going to come easy, and for awhile it looked as if it wouldn’t come at all. The visitors’ smothering defense and hustle on the offensive glass — forcing eight turnovers and corralling nine offensive boards in the first quarter alone — led to a 15-5 first quarter advantage. Part of that success was Catholic’s ability to eliminate Summers all-state guard Taylor Isaac, holding her to just two points in the first half.
”This has been consistent all year,” Charleston Catholic head coach Wes Hevener said. “ I thought we did a really good job on Isaac and forcing somebody else to take the ball up the court. They’ve come out and they’ve done everything we’ve asked all year. They come in and work hard and we pride ourselves on defense. I think from the opening tip we were able to set the defensive tone. I’m extremely proud of the way they came out and competed.”
While Isaac was eliminated on offense, fellow all-stater Pivont answered call, scoring seven of Summers’ 13 second quarter point to keep the hosts afloat.
”We knew coming in they’d have a really good game plan against us,” Pivont said. “Ashley Brown, their assistant coach, was a former player here so she knows all of our stuff so we kind of had to adjust our game plan and Catholic played hard. They play with a lot of heart and we knew they’d be dogging us. We knew we had to win and I wanted to do what I could to help us do that. It’s win or go home.”
Though they were able to trim the deficit throughout the second half, the Irish nearly delivered the knockout blow, going up 39-31 with just over four minutes left, but an 8-0 run in a game where points were at a premium gave Summers life.
”We felt the pressure,” Meador said. “We felt that empty feeling in our stomach thinking we weren’t going to be in Charleston, we weren’t going to walk through that back door next week. That was pure determination from veterans on the bench that wanted to get it done. They focused there towards the end.”
Eventually, behind eight fourth quarter point from Isaac, the game was knotted again going into the final possession and Summers had the ball, but a foul with .4 seconds left and subsequent misses on both foul shots forced overtime.
A Pivont jumper gave Summers the early advantage and poor free throw shooting from Catholic failed to provide an answer, as the Irish went 1-of-4 from the line in the extra period.
Though hope was alive.
With under 10 seconds left, Catholic had a wide open look from the corner for a 3 to take a one point lead, but it fell short. Summers’ Riley Richmond secured the rebound and found redemption for the free throws she missed at the end of regulation, canning both to cement a four point lead and send the Lady Bobcats to Charleston.
”I didn’t say anything to her after regulation,” Meador said. “She beat herself up. Nobody wanted to make that shot more than her, but she refocused in overtime, and you know the rest of the story.”
Summers County advances to next week’s state tournament in Charleston as the No. 5 seed where it will play No. 4 Pocahontas County on Thursday at 9 p.m.
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Mullen 4, Gimino 3, Rushworth 4, Bolles 15, Rantin 13, Tupta 3
Taylor Isaac 15, Gavin Pivont 12, Riley Richmond 5, Maggie Stover 7, Cheyanne Graham 2, Sully Pivont 2, Skylar Angell 2, Liv Meador 2