Prep girls basketball: Cougars defeat Pilots

HANNIBAL – History was made Wednesday night inside the R.L. Potts Gymnasium.

Bolstered by a solid fourth-quarter performance, and significant rebounding and free throw advantages, Frontier earned its first trip to the Wheeling Hospital OVAC Girls’ Basketball Tournament finals with a 50-46 victory against River.

The Cougars will face the survivor of tonight’s other semifinal – No. 4 Wheeling Central at No. 1 Bridgeport – at 8 p.m. Saturday at Ohio University Eastern’s Fitness Center.

“It was a goal we had, something we had talked about,” an elated Frontier head coach Scott Murphy said moments after thanking the Frontier student section for their support.

“The girls worked really hard for it. Congratulations to them for earning the opportunity.

“We’re not satisfied. They’re happy with the win, but they’re looking forward to Saturday night. This is a testament to these girls and how hard they work and what they want to achieve.”

With Bridgeport head coach Rob Zitzelsberger and a few of his players watching, the Cougars (13-3) dominated the fourth quarter en route to winning for the second time in three regular-season meetings against their PVC rivals.

Frontier trailed 32-26 heading into the final period, but outscored the Pilots 24-14 during the final 8 minutes.

The Cougars scored their final 13 points of the game from the free throw line and were 17 of 26 from the charity stripe in the fourth quarter. All told, they were 27-for-40.

Kelsea Daugherty, who scored eight of her team-high 17 points in the fourth, led the Cougars down the stretch. She was also 6 of 6 from the line in the final period.

Not only was Daugherty clutch offensively, she did a yeoman’s job defensively on River standout Jensen Caretti, who was held to five points in the fourth.

Caretti finished with a game-high 20 points.

River took a 33-30 lead with 6:17 remaining in the game when Haylee Bowers hit the second of two free throws.

From there, Frontier went on a 9-0 run to go ahead 39-33 with 3:58 left. Corisa Fickiesen scored five points during the spurt, with Daugherty collecting the other four.

Along the way, the Cougars earned two, sometimes three, attempts at the bucket, part of their 29-18 rebounding advantage in which 16 came on the offensive end.

“We struggled against them the other two times we played them in rebounding,” Murphy said, ” and we made a conscious effort to rebound the ball better.”

Caretti stopped the bleeding with a layup at the 3:45 mark that made the score 39-35. But four points was as close as the Pilots (13-6) got the rest of the way. Frontier’s foul shooting made sure of that.

“We struggled midway through the season with (free throws),” Murphy acknowledged. “That was something we talked about (Wednesday) morning in practice. I told them there was a good chance the game would come down to foul shots and that we might be the ones needing to hit them and we were.”

Frontier led by as many as seven, 47-40, with less than a minute left.

River only went to the line five times in the fourth quarter and struggled to get into any type of offensive flow all night. Caretti converted a 3-point play and a layup late in the third that helped River go up six, 29-23. The offensive momentum, however, was shortlived.

“We didn’t move the ball well ? we didn’t look to attack,” a frustrated River head coach Rick Isaly said. “At one time we were an up-tempo, fast-break team, but we’ve lost that. We do it in spurts. We don’t do it for a whole game or three quarters like we did in the first half of the season.

“Two things we had on our board in our locker room were to box out and stay out of foul trouble and we didn’t do those things, especially in the fourth quarter.”

Fickiesen finished with 11 points, while Lexie Brookover added 9.

“This was just a great team effort all the way around,” Murphy said.