State Tournament: Clark lifts St. Marys to victory in opener
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Tygarts Valley, with its diminutive lineup, used a triangle-and-two defense to try to mitigate the height and length difference between its sixth-seeded team and No. 3 St. Marys.
It worked, sort of.
St. Marys junior center Kendra Walker, who towers over most girls basketball competition at 6-foot-4, was held scoreless until 4:46 left of the third quarter in Wednesday morning's Class A first-round state tournament matchup.
The Blue Devils, however, also have 6-foot senior Audra Clark, who managed to outscore Tygarts Valley by herself in a 52-24 win at the Charleston Civic Center.
"(Tygarts Valley) spent a lot of time taking stuff away from Kendra Walker," St. Marys Coach Howard Meeks said. "They took away the points. When they took Kendra away we reversed the ball and Audra did what Audra does best - knock down shots."
Clark had twice as many field goals (six) as Tygarts Valley did as a team (three) at halftime. She nearly had a double-double by intermission with 12 points and nine rebounds, while her fellow post player had seven first-half rebounds.
St. Marys (24-1) led 19-8 at the half, and then Clark and Walker combined to score all of the Blue Devils' points in the third quarter to stretch the lead to 15 points.
Clark had 11 of her game-high 28 points in the third quarter. She finished 11-for-17 from the field, 6-for-8 from the foul line and tied with Walker for the game-high in rebounds (11).
"They're a matchup problem," Tygarts Valley Coach Mike DiPasquale said.
Still, St. Marys tied its lowest scoring output of the season and couldn't sniff its 69.0 points per game average. Clark had 54 percent of the Blue Devils' scoring Wednesday, while the rest of the team combined to shoot 9-for-32 from the field, miss all nine of its 3s and total just 24 points.
Walker finished with six points - four of which came in the fourth quarter with St. Marys comfortably ahead.
Defensively, St. Marys held Tygarts Valley leading scorer Shanda Howell to a season-low seven points - 12 below her average. Howell, a senior, finished 3-for-13 with 10 turnovers and one assist.
"I thought they were holding and grabbing more than they were playing good, solid defense," DiPasquale said of St. Marys.
Tygarts Valley (17-8) never scored in double figures in any quarter and finished 9-for-43 (20.9 percent) from the field. The Bulldogs missed 34 shots and had 34 turnovers in losing by 28 points to St. Marys for the second time this season.
The win was the 15th straight by St. Marys, which has beaten opponents by an average of 23.5 points during the streak.
The Blue Devils' last - and only - defeat this season came Jan. 7 at home to Wheeling Central.
St. Marys and second-seeded Wheeling Central will rematch in Friday's semifinals at 9:30 a.m.
Meeks said his team was 11-for-36 from 2 feet away from the basket in a 57-53 loss to Wheeling Central that came two months ago today.
"Not from the floor," he said. "From 2 feet. We did some things to ourselves."
Contact sports editor Chuck McGill at email@example.com or 304-348-7949.