Prep girls basketball: St. Marys defeats Tygarts

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – St. Marys diverted from its balanced ways and let 6-foot senior Audra Clark have her day.

Clark scored 28 points and pulled down 11 rebounds as the Blue Devils defeated Tygarts Valley, 52-24, in a Class A quarterfinal game Wednesday morning at the Charleston Civic Center.

“We preach all year about having team balance and different scorers,” St. Marys coach Howard Meeks said after his ballclub improved to 24-1. “What the defense was doing was putting two to three defenders all around Kendra Walker – and she did a good job of keeping her spirits up.

“But what that did was open it up for Audra.”

Walker also hauled in 11 rebounds, while teammate Dani Moore dished out a game-high six assists.

“I’m proud of the girls – we have had a good run the past four to five years even though we stubbed our toe last year to Williamstown then lost to Wheeling Central,” Meeks said. “The advantage we have down here is that we know all of our opponents because we played them during the regular season. We just need to play St. Marys basketball.”

St. Marys advances to Friday’s semifinal game against Wheeling Central, which defeated Valley Fayette, 66-27, in another quarterfinal contest on Wednesday. The Blue Devils’ only loss this season occurred on their home floor to the Maroon Knights, 57-53, on Jan. 7. Since that game, St. Marys is working on a 15-game winning streak.

Neither St. Marys nor Tygarts Valley could find the bottom of the net for the better half of the first quarter. Mikaela Britton’s bucket at the 4:23 mark of the opening period put the Blue Devils in front 2-0. Consecutive field goals from Clark extended the advantage to 6-0.

“The rims are a little tight in Charleston,” Meeks said. “We would try to force up a shot with too much spin. We made an adjustment and our shooting percentage went up in the second half.”

The Bulldogs missed their first eight attempts from the floor and were held scoreless for the first 6-1/2 minutes of the game before Paige Pritt hit a jumper to cut the deficit to 6-2. That’s where the score stood heading into the second period.

“We committed something like eight turnovers in the first four to five minutes of the game and there was nobody on us,” Meeks said. “You can’t do that against good teams.

“We made adjustments – I think it was the exciterment and the nerves of being down here.”

Charity Lower’s 3-pointer narrowed the gap to 6-5 in the opening stages of the second quarter before Clark began to assert herself. She accounted for eight of the team’s final 10 points as Tygarts Valley fell behind 19-8 at intermission. Igniting the spree was Moore with a three-point play. The senior also contributed three assists during the second quarter.

In the second half, the difference reached 17 at 30-13 when Tygarts Valley’s leading scorer coming into the game – Shanda Howell- finally found a crease for her first bucket on an 18-foot jumper at the three-minute mark of the third quarter. On 3-of-13 shooting, the 5-6 senior finished the game with seven points -12 points below her average.

The 15-point spread was the closest Tygarts Valley ever got to St. Marys.

St. Marys forced 34 Tygarts Valley turnovers and limited the Bulldogs to 21 percent shooting (9-of-43) from the floor.

“I thought we stepped up defensively,” Meeks said.