By Steve Keenan
Fayette Tribune Sports Editor
Playing without a key starter, the Fayetteville Pirate girls still had enough in the tank to defeat Ansted 25-19 to earn their fifth straight county middle school basketball championship Friday.
Valley defeated Collins 38-33 to capture the top boys trophy.
A stout defensive effort propelled the Pirates to the victory, said coach Phil Samples. Fayetteville scored five points in the fourth while holding Ansted scoreless.
“We pride ourselves on our defense,” Samples said. “We told our girls if they (Ansted) didn’t score in the last quarter, we would be champions.
“These girls increased their defensive intensity to hold Ansted scoreless in the final quarter.”
The Pirates played without Faith Norris, their co-captain and second-leading scorer, who suffered a concussion in the tournament opener against Valley.
“We had to make some minor lineup changes, which I thought the girls adjusted to very well,” said Samples. “I think the emotions from not having Faith able to play finally caught up with our girls.”
After trailing by one point, 9-8, Ansted moved into a 15-9 lead on the strength of scoring from Mallory Stonestreet, Jennifer Wilson and Haley Nickell, with Nickell’s steal and subsequent free throw pushing the lead to six points with 1:42 left until halftime.
“We called a timeout and tried to calm them down,” said Samples. “Kendall Malay then decided to take things into her own hands, scoring the last seven points of the (second) quarter, giving us a 16-15 lead at halftime.
“It seems like we play well when we get down.”
Malay’s three-point play in transition with six seconds left helped the Pirates regain the lead at the break.
“Phil Samples has a way of working magic with those girls,” said Ansted coach Leonard Varner Jr. “We got outhustled.
“I felt good about the way my girls played. They (Fayetteville) earned the win.”
After concluding the season at 13-5, Varner said he sees the program making obvious progress.
“Two years ago, I was happy to get one win,” he said. “I’m tickled to death.
“And we’ve got some girls to build on.”
“This feels probably better than the other four (titles),” Samples said. “This team had to face a lot of adversity.”
Malay, the girls tourney MVP, wound up with 18 points to lead Fayetteville (16-4).
Stonestreet and Wilson scored six each for the Trailblazers.
In the semifinal round, Fayetteville eased by Valley 42-18 following an 11-10 first quarter.
Malay tallied 19 points and Norris had nine to lead the Pirates. Others in the scoring column were: Hannah Franklin, 6; Caroline Fenton, 4; Rachel Mankins, 2; and Savannah Kincaid, 2.
Paris Fairfax and Jersey Thompson scored six each for Valley.
The Pirate defense forced 22 turnovers.
The Meadow Bridge girls defeated Valley 37-18 in the consolation game.
Shauna Harless scored 15 and Micah Farr 14 to pace the Wildcats (9-9). Other scorers were: Makayla Church, 4; Taylor Smith, 2; and Kaylie Persinger, 2.
Fairfax tallied eight points to lead the Greyhounds.
On the opening night of the tournament, the Greyhound girls topped Collins 37-32.
Thompson tallied a game-high 16 points for Valley.
Madison Lilly scored 13 to pace Collins. Also in the scoring column were: Emily Reeves, 3; Morgan Adkins, 2; Cydney Thomas, 3; Brooke Daniels, 4; and Tae’a Scruggs, 7.
For a complete rundown of tourney awards and more photos, see future issues.
Ansted 6 9 4 0 — 19
Fayetteville 7 9 4 5 — 25
Mallory Stonestreet 2 2-2 6, Jennifer Wilson 3 0-0 6, Haley Nickell 2 1-3 5, Makenna Nickell 0 2-2 2, Jacklyn Nuckols 0 0-1 0. Totals: 7 5-8 19.
Kendall Malay 8 1-3 18, Caroline Fenton 1 1-2 3, Hannah Franklin 1 0-0 2, Savannah Kincaid 1 0-0 2. Totals: 11 2-5 25.