By Steve Keenan
Fayette County will be home to some exciting girls basketball matchups tonight.
And, since it’s the postseason, the stakes will be much higher.
In Class A Region 3, two key games will be contested locally. Class A No. 8 Fayetteville (15-6), the top seed in Section 2, will host county rival Midland Trail (7-13) at 7 p.m. at the Fayette County Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Building. Also, Section 2’s second seed, Valley (11-6), will entertain No. 10 Meadow Bridge (16-5) at 7 p.m. in Smithers.
The two survivors will meet at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 21 for the section championship in the gym of the remaining team with the best seed.
The Region 3 co-final games will be played on Feb. 28, with the two winners advancing to the state tournament. Teams in Section 1 are Tug Valley, Man, Sherman, Montcalm, Greater Beckley Christian and Van.
Fayetteville escaped with a 54-52 victory over Midland Trail in the two teams’ season opener on Dec. 7, then the Pirates followed that with a 50-43 win over the Patriots on Feb. 7.
“Both were close games,” said Fayetteville coach John Mark Kincaid. “Forget about the records.
“They always play hard.”
“We have to play a full four quarters,” said Midland Trail coach Cynthia Hedrick. “We need to stay consistent across the board offensively and defensively.
“(Fayetteville) is going to try to put some pressure on us.”
Hedrick pointed to Saturday’s 51-47 section-opening win at Richwood as proof of her squad’s sometimes inconsistent play. Trail led 31-14 at half and held a 20-point edge at one point before the Lumberjacks scrapped back to within four points late. At that point, Marissa Workman drilled a key 3-pointer to allow Trail to escape. Madison Syner scored 23 and Workman 12 for the Patriots. “When we play, we’re a good basketball team,” Hedrick said. Halting “mental breakdowns” is a must, she added.
Syner leads Midland Trail with a 10.2 points per game average, while Kennedy Cochran follows at 9.7 ppg, Emily Carte at 8.4 and Workman at 7.6. Workman has landed 22 3-point goals.
Winding down a standout career, forward Jessica Brown guides the Pirates into the postseason with a 22.9 ppg scoring average. While acknowledging Brown as the Pirates’ “go-to player,” Hedrick says her team must also contain other performers on the Fayetteville roster. “We have to take ownership of each possession,” she stressed.
“The key for us is Jess; she’s a constant and is going to get hers,” said Kincaid. Other players, he stressed, must step up to complement Brown’s play. “The last couple of games we’ve been playing real hard. If we can keep it up, we’ll be all right.”
Avina Sedlock (9.5 ppg), Maddie Pritt (7.4 ppg) and Erica Hogan (6.2 ppg) are among the other main FHS contributors.
Kincaid is anticipating the postseason. “All of us (teams) are better than we were last year,” he said.
The two squads squared off in a Region 3 co-final a year ago, with Midland pulling the upset and advancing to Charleston. “That was a pretty big disappointment,” Kincaid said.
Valley and Meadow Bridge met just once in the regular season, with the Greyhound girls rallying for a 63-55 triumph at Meadow Bridge on Jan. 4.
“They’re a very consistent team and they’re well-coached,” first-year Valley coach Richie Cantrell said of Meadow Bridge. “They’ve been overlooked all year.”
While the Greyhounds lean heavily on senior Alexis Payne (24.8 ppg) and sophomore Abby Buchan (19.0 ppg, 26 3-pointers), Cantrell says he’s confident other players can contribute, as well. “They will key on Alexis and Abby, but I think we’ve got some girls who are going to step up,” he said.
Kelsey Bird, who missed a game last week due to illness, is averaging 7.8 points a game.
“Obviously in every game we need to take it seriously and concentrate and not get too excited,” said Cantrell. “We just have to play consistent and do the basics: follow our shots, box out underneath the boards and don’t force shots.”
Valley started the season 8-0 but has since slowed the pace, entering Tuesday’s game at 11-6.
Meadow Bridge advanced to tonight’s second round with a 48-37 defeat of neighboring Greenbrier West Saturday. Allison Gilkerson scored 16, Caitlin White 12 and Sarah Fleshman 11 to pace the Wildcats.
The leading scorer is Chandra Harrah (16.0 ppg, 52 3-pointers) but, as the Greenbrier West game indicated, there are several other threats.
“We feel that one person is not going to carry us,” said Meadow Bridge coach Steve Taylor. Besides Harrah’s scoring, other main contributors are Fleshman (14.3 ppg), Gilkerson (8.3 ppg) and White (8.1 ppg). “It’s a total team situation.”
“There’s no doubt it’s going to be a very close game with two very good basketball teams,” Taylor said. “It’s a shame one of the two teams is not going to make it (further in tourney play).
“We need to get out and run the fast break, and defensively we’re going to (show) some different looks.