Girls basketball: Tothe strikes early, lifts Logan to win
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- When the final seconds expire on the career of Logan's Hannah Tothe, the senior guard will end right where she hoped she would spend the last moments - the state tournament.
Tothe paced the Wildcats girls basketball squad with a game-high 20 points behind stellar 3-point shooting, as Logan won at St Albans 57-46 in Tuesday night's Class AAA Region 4 co-final.
"After four years and being my senior year, my career's going to be ending, ending on the Civic Center floor and trying to win a state title would be the best," Tothe said.
Wildcats Coach Kevin Gertz provided a bit more perspective on the team's achievement.
"We've been the doormat of our section for years," he said. "We're not anymore."
Tothe struck early with 15 first-half points on 5-of-5 shooting from 3-point range to help lead Logan to a 33-19 advantage at halftime. Tothe and fellow guard Kyra Cline combined for 29 of Logan's 33 first-half points.
While Tothe and Cline propelled Logan to its lead, sophomore Shayna Gore and center Monica Mitchell carried the Wildcats in the second half.
Gore finished with nine points, though her biggest contribution came via her distribution and handling of the ball in the second half.
"Shayna's our playmaker," Tothe said.
"If we keep her in the game, we all fall together, so we play off her really. If she's playing good, then we're going to play phenomenal."
At halftime, the Logan coach said he encouraged Gore to stay within herself and not worry so much about point production in the second half.
"I said 'Just play your game.' " Gertz said. "She's a tremendous player. She's been our leading scorer almost every game this year. They shut her down, but she got other people involved. That's how we got that first-half lead. But, she finished the fourth quarter like an All-Stater."
Logan led by as many as 15 in the second half, but St. Albans cut the deficit to nine after a 5-0 run to start the fourth quarter.
As close as the Red Dragons came, St. Albans struggled to execute consistently enough to threaten further.
"We had an opportunity to really cut that lead down to five or four points, but we didn't take advantage of our opportunities," Red Dragons Coach Scott James said. "You live and you learn. We miss 15 free throws, we get beat by 11. Those are just things that we have to work on."
Instead of succumbing to St. Albans' comeback attempt, Gore and Logan made the right decisions, as Gore handled the ball well and worked inside to Mitchell.
"I just secure the ball and we wait for them to foul, and I feed it into Monica," Gore said. "She kicked it back out, they started fouling and we knocked down some free throws."
The Red Dragons pulled within eight with 1:46 to go after a Lexie Cooper 3-pointer, but never any closer as the Wildcats shut the door to advance.
The loss marked the end of the season for St. Albans, but hardly the finish for any member of the seniorless squad.
"This is one of the most enjoyable seasons and group of girls I've ever coached," James said.
"All they want to do is get better and win. We've got one junior, the rest freshmen and sophomores. These girls have fought their hearts out. I don't know how long it's been, maybe 1996, since we hosted a regional final, and we're just excited about the future."
For Logan, the win represented the ultimate reward for a program that's equally entering a new era of success.
Logan also reached the state tournament in 2000 and 1976.
"Our program has grown leaps and bounds," he said. "We have very good players, no doubt about it, but these kids have worked hard. They worked hard in the offseason and we've done a great job."
The hard work's paid dividends. Now, it's time for Tothe and Logan to end the season where all West Virginia basketball teams hope to finish, at the state tournament.