Mountain Lions win barn burner over Pendleton Co. to advance

THe Inter-Mountain photo by Becky Moore Tucker County senior Brandon Zirk drives the ball down the court in a winning effort against Pendleton County Thursday.

HAMBLETON — Tucker County collected a thrilling 54-52 win over Potomac Valley Conference rival Pendleton County Thursday.

The Mountain Lions will advance to a Class A Region II Section title game against Paw Paw on Saturday at Petersburg High School.

With a buzzer-beating offensive rebound putback in the last second of the game, junior Corrick Ambrose paced the Mountain Lions to victory with 18 points. Ambrose dropped in three shots from behind the arc, and nailed a 3 for 3 night at the foul line.

“Brandon Zirk picked us up late, and made big plays in the final moments,” TCHS coach Jim Ambrose said. “What we have to understand is that when we penetrate and kick the pass out, things go well. When we just take one shot too fast, it can hurt us.”

Pendleton County grabbed a 7-2 lead in the first quarter with under 4 minutes left in the frame. Ambrose knocked down a pair of treys to help the black and gold trail 12-8 to start the second period.

The Mountain Lions tied the game at 17-all with just over a minute left before halftime. Ambrose drove the lane and connected on a three-point play, and Zirk took a steal back the other way to have the Mountain Lions up 22-18 at the break.

Pendleton junior Marcus Sites put the Wildcats on his back by scoring 16 points in the third quarter to help Pendleton take the lead back with a 42-38 advantage to start the fourth stanza. Sites finished the contest with a game-high 24 points.

Tucker tied the game quickly, 42-all, early in the fourth as things began to get even more chippy between the PVC rivals.

Luke Poling, a TCHS senior and the most recent Mountain Lions’ quarterback on the gridiron, came off the bench with a shove. He was ejected and the Wildcats were awarded free time at the line, where Pendleton finished 23 of 32 on the mountain.

The Mountain Lions were down by 5 points with 3:19 left in the last quarter. Zirk made the eighth and final three-point shot good for Tucker, and then powered in with a layup to knot the game at 50-50 with 1:28 to go in regulation.

Zirk attacked the glass again, and drew a foul. Zirk nailed the pair, putting TCHS back on top at 52-50. Sites pulled the Wildcats back to level after hitting 2 of 2 at the charity stripe.

With time running out, Tucker went to the rim, and Ambrose’s putback with a second left in the contest secured the Mountain Lions’ come-from-behind victory.

Zirk finished with 14 points, and Jeffrey Snyder stood tall for 11 boards and 6 points. Wesley Snyder grabbed 8 points for TCHS. Cameron Wamsley was also a factor, making some points and causing problems for the visitors during the second half.

Draven Roberts, a Pendleton County sophomore, scored 8 points for the PCHS Wildcats during what turned out to be a Class A barn burner between the two PVC foes.

Pendleton, under the direction of coach Ryan Lambert, bowed out of the season with a 10-10 resume.

Tucker (12-10) will take on the Morgan County based Paw Paw Pirates Saturday at 7 p.m. for the section title game hosted at Petersburg High School in Grant County.