State Tournament: Painful ending for Valley-Fayette
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Wheeling Central dropped Valley-Fayette 66-27 in the Class A quarterfinals of the state tournament on Wednesday at the Charleston Civic Center.
Central (22-4) advances to the semifinals at 9:30 a.m. Friday to play St. Marys.
Led by senior Alexis Payne, Valley (13-8) put together a formidable first half against last year's state runner-up.
"The first game in the state tournament is always tough. You come down here and haven't played on this court, it's a big court, background's a little different - you don't shoot well and you're a little nervous." Coach Penn Kurtz said.
"The way to overcome that is to play hard and so we came out in the third quarter and played very hard and just turned the game completely around."
Payne scored 13 points, pulled down eight rebounds and blocked five shots in the first two quarters of play.
Payne, Valley's leading scorer, seemed to be everywhere in the first half. Early in the second quarter, Payne stepped behind the arc and hit the Greyhounds' only 3-pointer of the game to put Valley up 16-14.
Later in the second, she cleared a defensive rebound and immediately hit a streaking teammate in transition for an easy bucket to tie the game at 22.
But the experience and depth of Wheeling Central proved to be too much for the Greyhounds in the second half.
In the second half, Valley made just two field goals, shooting a dismal 9.5 percent from the floor and turned the ball over 21 times.
Wheeling Central outscored Valley 26-5 in the third quarter and held them scoreless in the fourth.
"We were right with it the first half, we kind of fell apart and our shots didn't fall." Valley Coach Richard Cantrell said.
Central opened up the third quarter with an effective full-court press, which led to 18 second-half steals for the Maroon Knights.
"When they put the full court press on us we just lost confidence and that is when it started to go down hill for us." said Payne, who managed just one point in the second half, but finished with 14 points, 12 rebounds and five blocked shots.
Adding injury to her woes, Payne smacked her right leg on the floor late in the third quarter and had to leave the game for several minutes.
However, Payne's injury was not the worst of the night for Valley.
With less than 1 second left in the first quarter, starting guard Alaysha Taylor's right knee buckled. She was carried back to the bench by her coach and was later treated in the trainer's room.
Wheeling Central quickly found the confidence Valley lost in the second half.
Two members of the 2012 All-Tournament team - Colleen McCormick and Emily Bucon - led Central with 14 points each.
Their coach, Kurtz - who is in his 20th season guiding the Maroon Knights - has led his team to 18 state tournaments.
This is his 11th consecutive postseason with the Maroon Knights who also won the Class A title in 2008.
The second half belonged to Wheeling Central, which scored 32 points off turnovers.
"We just needed to wake up," said McCormick, who had 14 points and nine rebounds as the Maroon Knights outscored the Greyhounds 42-5 in the second half. "Once we got our reality check in the first half, we knew we just had to take over and start getting into our pace of the game."
"The press let us run our tempo of the game and not theirs," Bucon said. "I think we were playing how they wanted us to play in the first half and we just kind of took over."
Bucon finished with 14 points and eight assists.
The Maroon Knights will continue their title run against the Blue Devils (24-1), a 52-24 winner over Tygarts Valley, on Friday.
"When we play St. Marys it's pretty much a war out there. We are very familiar with them." Kurtz said.
Cantrell led his Valley to 13 wins this season and seems to be pleased his team's progress.
He had a huge smile on his face as he trotted across the Civic Center floor to shake hands with Kurtz during the game introductions.
"You've got to give credit to these young ladies ... they worked hard all year," Cantrell said. "Six games won last year and now they're at the state tournament. I'm so proud of them."