Mountain Lions advance to semifinals

CHARLESTON – Playing for the third time this season, there were no surprises when No. 3 seed Tucker County and sixth-seed Pocahontas County battled Thursday morning in Class A quarterfinal action at the Charleston Civic Center.

Like the previous two meetings, it was a low-scoring affair with the Mountain Lions (20-4) once again coming out on top to earn a spot in the semifinals at 11:15 a.m. today against No. 2 seed St. Marys, which cruised past Fayetteville, 71-40, Thursday afternoon to advance.

“Our strategy was to come out and wear them down with our depth,” said Tucker County second-year coach Jim Ambrose after his team’s 51-31 victory. “We knew they didn’t have a large bench, so we were going to pressure them, and I felt like that was a big factor today.”

Early on it was the Warriors with the look of the team that won both regular-season meetings, as a jumper by freshman Sarah Ryder allowed Pocahontas County to take a 15-9 lead 24 seconds into the second quarter.

But a 3-pointer by Madison Mullenax cut the lead to three and seemed to jumpstart the Tucker County offense, as the Mountain Lions went on a 16-4 run to close the first half.

They never trailed again after Stephanie Betler’s trey made it 19-16 with 3:50 left to play in the second quarter.

“We played well in the first quarter then got into foul trouble,” Pocahontas County coach Mike Kane said. “We were never able to get things back on track after that.

“Tucker County has a great ball club and I wish them well the rest of the tournament.”

The Mountain Lions kept the momentum in the third quarter, as a 25-19 halftime advantage quickly turned into a 17-point lead on a jumper by Savannah Ambrose with 4:37 left in the canto.

Pocahontas County, which hit just 19.5 percent of its field goals on the day, was limited to just three points in the third and Tucker County entered the fourth with a comfortable 43-22 edge.

“It seemed like there was a lid on our basket that wouldn’t let the ball go through,” Kane said. “We had some good shots and some bad shots – they just didn’t go in.”

The reserves were able to give the Mountain Lions their biggest lead of the game when Madison Reall drained a 3-pointer with 48 seconds left in regulation to make it 51-28.

“The girls played well after the first quarter,” Jim Ambrose added. “Pocahontas County is always a good game and we knew they were going to come out and play hard.”

Tucker County, making its 10th straight tourney appearance, dominated inside play, outscoring Pocahontas County 26-6 inside the paint and holding a 41-35 rebounding edge.

Ambrose led the charge, as the 6-foot-1 senior blocked seven shots and collected nine

rebounds.

Betler, meanwhile, led the Mountain Lions in scoring with 15 points. Bekah Simmons chipped in with 12 points and four steals, while Mariah Bowley dished out five assists.

Ryder was the lone player to reach double figures for the Warriors with 13 points. Leading scorer Tristin Day was held to just four points, 14 below her

average.

“Our kids played hard,” said Kane, whose squad loses only two seniors – Lorena Rose and Bethany Arbogast. “I was proud of their effort and our hope is to be back here next year.”

Pocahontas County ended the season 16-8.