Girls basketball: Poca upsets Hoover in sectional opener
POCA, W.Va. - A year removed from a cancelled season, the Poca girls basketball team extended its schedule one more game Monday night.
Six games into the 2011-12 season, the Dots folded, but Monday overcame the odds and their higher-seeded opponents to defeat Herbert Hoover in Class AA, Region 4 sectional play, 46-37. Poca advances to play third-ranked Nicholas County Wednesday night at 8.
"I challenged them girls 'Great moments are made from great opportunities,' and that's what I told them before the game," Poca Coach Kenny Sayre said. "They'll remember this for the rest of their lives. I guarantee it, winning that game right there."
It was a grind and a challenge throughout against Hoover (12-11), just as the whole season has been for Poca (5-18). On Dec. 28, Dots senior standout tore the ACL in her right knee. Poca finished the regular season with just one win after McGrew's injury.
At the point of McGrew's injury, Sayre said he feared the team might face another shutdown.
"This team could have easily folded after Madi (got hurt)," he said, "but, man, I tell you they show up every day and they play hard. I don't know how many officials have said, 'Buddy, these girls play hard,' and they do. It's hard to get on them because they play hard."
On Thursday, Poca lost at Tolsia by two points with just seven players making the trip. Against the Huskies, the Dots used six players.
For a program that has faced such adversity, Sayre said Monday's sectional win was extra meaningful.
"Finishing the season is a victory for us," he said, "but getting a daggone win and then having the chance to play Nicholas County, who's ranked top five in the state, playing at our place - you just never know. It's huge and the girls are on could nine right now. They're tickled to death."
While Poca played tough throughout against Hoover, it seemed it may just be a matter of time until the Huskies pulled away. At halftime, Hoover led 20-18.
"We've been hanging pretty tough with teams up until about half, then we have that one quarter where we score two or three points," Sayre said. "Tonight, we just didn't have that."
Instead, Poca made its move and grabbed the lead in the third quarter behind a Paula Ord bucket and Harley Hutchins 3-pointer to go ahead 28-24.
Hoover's Hannah Schoolcraft later tied the contest at 30-30 on a pair of free throws with 6:11 left in the fourth quarter. However, Poca never surrendered the lead.
The Dots scored the game's next five points, but led by just one with 1:15 remaining as the Huskies controlled the ball.
That's when Ord, as she did all game long, grabbed a key rebound. Ord, a senior forward, grabbed the rebound and dribbled the length of the court for the score to put Poca ahead 40-37.
"They told me not to dribble, but I did," Ord said with a laugh. "It worked out."
Hutchins essentially sealed the game with a steal and layup to give the Dots a 42-37 lead with 46 seconds remaining.
Hoover turned the ball over four times in the final minute as the Huskies could not make the necessary moves to mount a viable comeback effort.
"They play as good as defense as anybody in our conference," Hoover Coach Greg Ullman said. "We battled hard. It was just one of those nights where things didn't go well and shots didn't fall. It happens. We're obviously very disappointed. We thought we could play with anybody in our section and we wanted a shot at Nicholas."
The Huskies finished the night 13-of-61 from the field. Caroline Thornburg paced Hoover with 11 points, but posted just two in the second half.
For Poca, Ord tallied a double-double with 13 points and a game-high 15 rebounds.
Sophomore guard McKenzie Ball finished with 13 points, too, in an impressive showing for her first-ever postseason game, Sayre said.
For Ball, the game was a great testament to the team's will.
"Our coaches tell us to never give up and we didn't give up," she said. "It makes us all really happy. That's why we all came down celebrating, yelling, and we just can't wait to face Nicholas County and see what it brings us."
Likewise, Ord said the win means a lot to extend the season a couple more days for a squad that has endured a lot to become a close unit.
"All of us have become not just a team, but a family, and it's a great feeling to have these girls who are like your sisters," she said. "It's a blessing to have them and to come to practice and games every day."