CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Williamstown ended Tucker County's season in the quarterfinal round of the state tournament with a nail-biting, last second win last March.
On Wednesday night, No. 4 Tucker County returned the favor with a physical 61-53 win over the fifth seeded Yellowjackets in the opening round of the 2013 state tournament at the Charleston Civic Center.
Tucker County (20-5) advances to face top-seeded St. Joseph (23-1) in the semifinal smatchup at 1 p.m. Friday, while Williamstown's season ended at 14-10.
The Mountain Lions used a 12-0 run to close out the first half and open a 17-point halftime lead before fighting off a fierce Williamstown comeback in the second half.
The Yellowjackets were able to cut Tucker's lead to two on two occasions in the fourth quarter, but couldn't fully dig themselves out of the first-half hole, created in part, by a 7-of-33 shooting effort.
"What a game," Tucker County Coach Jim Ambrose said. "I'm telling you, I'm proud of these girls. We said at halftime that Williamstown will not quit and we knew that coming in.
"We talked about them giving us a run. They're seniors and they've been there before and we were able to weather their run and get some big baskets at key times when we really needed a bucket."
Tucker junior Stephanie Betler finished with 24 points and seven rebounds, while senior Amber Evans added 21 points and 12 rebounds. Savannah Ambrose collected a game-high 13 rebounds and three blocked shots for the Mountain Lions.
Williamstown was led by Kenzie Smith's 19 points, followed by Brooke Cieslewski with 16 points.
For the Yellowjackets' players, the memories of last season's disappointing ending helped down the stretch.
"That was on my mind," Evans said. "Being a starter from last year and losing by two points with 10 seconds left in the game... that really hit you. I knew I had this year, and this year all I wanted to do was come out and win."
While Williamstown struggled to shoot in the first half, Tucker connected on 16-of-31 shots. The Mountain Lions' hot shooting hand helped build the large halftime lead, while challenging the Yellowjackets mentally.
"In the first half we were a little bit bewildered," Williamstown Coach Fred Sauro said. "They came out and hit some shots and played with a lot of energy and our energy at first, didn't match theirs.
"In the second half we talked about not worrying about it (the first half) and going out and playing great defense and let our defense create some offense. The kids did a great job. You saw them take a 17-point lead and take it to two. They showed a tremendous amount of heart in the second half."