Prep girls basketball: Williamstown, St. Marys in girls state tourney Wednesday

The last time Williamstown advanced to the W.Va. Girls State Basketball Tournament, the Yellowjackets’ opponent was the Mountain Lions from Tucker County of head coach Tom Carr.

When veteran WHS head coach Fred Sauro takes his maroon and gold clad Jackets back to the Charleston Civic Center this Wednesday for one of the four quarterfinal matchups in Class A, he will again be facing the Mountain Lions, but under the direction of a new head coach, Jim Ambrose.

While this may be his first year as the head coach at Tucker County, that doesn’t mean that Ambrose is unfamiliar with his team’s first round opponent.

“I was actually sitting in the stands last year (for Williamstown’s 86-84 win over Tucker County),” explained Ambrose. “Like so many other fans, it is so much easier to coach when you are in the stands than on that floor. So, while I didn’t get a chance to coach in that game, I feel like I learned enough from it to understand what we are up against when we take on a Williamstown.”

Williamstown, which lost in the semifinals a year ago to Wheeling Central, returns a veteran squad led by seniors Kenzie Smith (19.0 ppg), Carley Ellison (10.0), Brooke Cieslewski (13.1), Kathleen Cornell (10.4) and Sami Rea (5.7).

“They (Williamstown) are a running team,” continued Ambrose, whose Mountain Lions are the tournament’s No. 4 seed in Class A. “We are going to have to find a way to slow them down.”

Tucker County will counter with a starting five that includes seniors Amber Evans (13.9 ppg) and Hunter Radford (4.6) and juniors Stephanie Betler (14.5), Bekah Simmons (8.5) and Savannah Ambrose (5.4).

No. 5 seed Williamstown won’t be the only local team in action on Wednesday as No. 3 St. Marys (23-1) will open the four-day tournament against No. 6 Tygarts Valley (17-7) at 9:30 a.m.

“No one wants to get up that early, even less want to play a game at that time,” said Tygarts Valley head coach Mike DiPasquale. “But, our kids begin school at 7 a.m. so they are used to waking up early. And, more importantly, both teams will face the same problems with playing at that time of day.”

The Bulldogs and Blue Devils have met once this season with St. Marys handing Tygarts Valley a 71-43 setback in the W.Va. Hometown Invitational Tournament. “It helps having played them (St. Marys),” said DiPasquale. “I was able to go into Friday’s practice with an idea of what we needed to do. Now, it comes down to us making the needed adjustments to make sure that (loss) doesn’t happen again.”

St. Marys is led by two-time Class A all-state performer Audra Clark (18.0 ppg) and junior Kendra Walker (13.6) while Tygarts Valley will counter with a starting five that includes seniors Shanda Howell (19.0 ppg) and Erin Murphy (3.8) and juniors Emily Pingley (5.0), Kelsey Arbogast (6.4) and Paige Pritt (9.3).