Highlanders’ bid for upset comes up short vs. Spartans
Greenbrier East rallies for 54-50 win
CHARLESTON — Huntington High’s girls basketball team struggled for just two stretches of its Class AAA quarterfinal Wednesday morning — the first four minutes and the last four minutes.
The final stretch was enough to cost the seventh-seeded Highlanders as No. 2 seed Greenbrier East rallied from a nine point fourth quarter deficit to defeat Hun 54-50 in the Charleston Coliseum and Convention Center. The loss ended Huntington High’s season at 15-11.
“I’m very proud of these young ladies and the whole team for, first of all, getting here,” Huntington High coach Lonnie Lucas said. “I thought we left it all on the floor. We didn’t have anything left.”
The biggest swing came with just less than two minutes left when both teams had scrambles with missed opportunities in a 49-49 tie.
After three missed Huntington High opportunities at the rim, Greenbrier East came back in transition and senior Abbie Bartenslager connected on a 3-pointer with 1:27 left that gave the Spartans their first lead since the early second half.
“Especially being a senior, I didn’t want the game to end,” Bartenslager said. “I was putting everything out there that I could. It was a big sigh of relief that I hit that three.”
Huntington High took a 44-35 lead on a basket by Madison Slash with 6:36 left, but the Spartans clamped down from there, limiting the Highlanders to just one of its eight final field goals.
While the High landers went cold, Greenbrier East (23-3) found its range midway through the fourth quarter, using an Emma Dotson 3-pointer to end a slump that saw the Spartans hit just two of their first 19 3-point attempts. Dotson’s 3-pointer fueled a 12-3 run that knotted the game 47-47 before Bartenslager’s big shot.
Greenbrier East also got contributions down the stretch from Haley McClure, who overcame foul trouble throughout to finish with 16 points, seven rebounds and five blocks.
McClure was not the only one with major foul issues as the Spartans saw both their primary ball-handlers — Autumn Hill and Kate Perkins — foul out in the fourth quarter. Huntington High’s inability to take advantage of Greenbrier East’s foul issues was a key storyline.
The Highlanders had a decided advantage in free throw opportunities, but hit just 11 of 23 attempts with several misses in the fourth quarter.
“Throughout the year, we’ve been winning, shooting 54 percent from the foul line,” Lucas said. “It’s just something we’ve been dealing with the whole year.”
Huntington High had a chance to take a sizable lead into halftime after McClure picked up her third foul with 4:58 left in the second quarter and the Highlanders in the lead. However, Greenbrier East got a 3-pointer by freshman Amya Damon and followed with a steal and three-point play from Kate Perkins to take a 27-26 lead into the locker room.
Following Perkins’ three-point play, the Highlanders missed an opportunity and Greenbrier East elected to hold the ball for the final 90 seconds of the half.
Coming out of halftime, the Spartans briefly increased their lead on a basket by Hill, but Huntington High answered with an 8-0 run — capped by a pair of baskets by Slash — to take a 34-29 lead as the pace increased.
Slash finished with 14 points and 16 rebounds (11 offensive rebounds) while teammate LaTahia Jackson also scored 14.
Early on, the game featured a pair of big runs by both sides predicated off defense.
Greenbrier East jumped out to an 8-0 lead with aggressive play, but foul trouble quickly mounted, taking away the aggressive nature of the Spartans. Huntington High followed by rattling off the game’s next 17 points before the Spartans got their offense turned around.
The game featured two of the state’s most veteran coaches in Gov. Jim Justice of Greenbrier East — a veteran of 30-plus years — and Lucas, who has been a head coach for 51 years.
With so much familiarity, the game took on a cat-and-mouse feel between the two old adversaries.
“Look, Lonnie and I have been at this a long time together,” Justice said. “We’ve battled each other multiple times. He threw a lot of stuff at us and we should’ve thrown a lot of stuff at him. It was a sloppy game. We can play better than that and I’m sure he feels like they can play better than that. I told him, ‘You’re going to drive my soul to torment.’ ”
In addition to McClure’s contributions, Damon reached double figures with 10 for the Spartans, who advance to the 9 p.m. semifinals Friday against the University-Martinsburg winner.
HUNTINGTON HIGH 13 13 14 10 — 50: Swann 2-6 5-8 9, Jackson 6-11 2-6 14, Turner 2-13 3-6 7, Slash 7-14 0-1 14, Foley 1-6 0-0 2, Crawford 0-0 0-0 0, Wooding 0-0 0-0 0, Goodson 1-7 1-2 4. Totals 19-57 11-23 50.
GREENBRIER EAST 8 19 8 19 — 54: Bartenslager 3-9 0-0 8, Dotson 3-12 0-0 8, Hill 3-8 0-1 6, Perkins 2-3 1-1 5, McClure 7-15 2-2 16, Damon 3-13 3-3 10, Groves 0-1 0-0 0, Nunley 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 21-61 7-9 54. 3-point goals: HHS 1-11 (Swann 0-3, Turner 0-3, Goodson 1-5); GE 5-26 (Bartenslager 2-6, Dotson 2-8, Hill 0-2, McClure 0-2, Damon 1-8).