CHARLESTON - Bruised and battered after a 32-minute war with No. 2 St. Marys, a successful season came to an end for Tucker County Friday in the Class A semifinals.
The Blue Devils (24-1) used a clutch 3-pointer by freshman Jordan Fox with 4:52 left in regulation en route to a 55-42 win over the Mountain Lions.
"It's always tough to see your season end like this," Tucker County coach Jim Ambrose said. "We battled and played hard the entire 32 minutes and I was proud of the effort our girls gave.
The Inter-Mountain photos by Joey Kittle
Tucker County players walk off the court after giving an inspired effort against St. Marys in Class A semifinal action Friday at the Charleston Civic Center. The Blue Devils advanced to face St. Joseph in today’s finals.
"We may have came up short today but it doesn't take away from the successful season we had."
The Mountain Lions trailed by as many as 10 points in the first half before taking a 27-26 lead with 3:28 left in the third quarter on a layup by Stephanie Betler.
A jumper by Aiyana Kachmarek followed by a trey by freshman Elizabeth Nichols then gave Tucker County its biggest lead of the game at 32-28.
St. Marys, however, answered with three straight points to close the quarter and continued the run into the fourth quarter.
Trailing 34-31 after a jumper by Mountain Lion senior Bekah Simmons, the Blue Devils went on a 9-0 surge with Fox's trey during the run giving St. Marys the lead for good.
The Blue Devils put the game out of reach by nailing all 12 of their free throws inside of 2 minutes remaining in regulation.
Ambrose said. "They are a well-coached team and got the job done from the free-throw line. We also had our chances at the line in the fourth quarter but couldn't convert."
Tucker County's effort was plagued by a poor shooting performance from the field. The Mountain Lions connected on just 19.4 percent of their field-goal attempts.
"We didn't shoot the ball very well," Ambrose said. "If we could have made our shots, maybe it would have been a different game."
St. Marys coach Howard Meeks applauded the Mountain Lions' effort.
"It wasn't a victory today, it was a battle," he said. "Tucker County's girls played their heart's out. Someone had to win and somebody had to lose and my heart goes out to their players and coaches."
Betler, playing her final game in a Tucker County uniform, finished with 15 points, overcoming several hard hits and falls to the floor.
"Stephanie got knocked down several times but kept getting up," Ambrose said. "I don't think she missed any playing time. Her play showed the toughness we like to portray at Tucker County."
Kendra Walker, a 6-foot-4 center, led the Blue Devils with 21 points and 13 rebounds. Ashley Hall added a double-double with 13 points and 11 rebounds.
Savannah Ambrose finished with 15 rebounds and five blocked shots.
The Mountain Lions ended the season 20-5 and will lose senior players Betler, Ambrose, Simmons and Mariah Bowley.
"I want to thank our seniors for their efforts," Jim Ambrose said. "We've been together for a long time and I can't say enough about them."
St. Marys will face five-time state champion St. Joseph at 2:30 p.m. today in the title game. The Irish (22-3) advanced with a win over Charleston Catholic in Friday's other semifinal.