CHARLESTON — The first taste of victory at the state tournament was sweet for the Logan High School girls’ basketball team which beat Princeton 77-66 on Thursday in the Class AAA quarterfinals at the Charleston Civic Center.
The Lady Cats, though, don’t want to stop there.
Logan is just one more win from reaching the 3A state championship game and two more wins away from taking the crown.
History was made as fifth-seeded Logan (16-9) advanced to one of the two Class AAA state tournament semifinals where the Lady Cats are scheduled to face No. 2-ranked and first seed Spring Valley (23-3), which defeated Capital 84-60 on Wednesday. Tip-off is set for 5:30 p.m. on Friday.
Logan had made three previous trips to the state girls’ tournament but lost in 2000, 1976 and 1924.
Friday’s semifinals with Spring Valley is a rematch of the Class AAA Region 4 Section 2 championship game which was won by the Lady Wolves 68-67 on Feb. 22 at Huntington.
After losing that one, Logan was hoping to have another shot the Lady Wolves.
They will get their chance tonight at the Civic Center.
No. 4 seed Princeton saw its season come to a close at 19-7.
Logan sophomore guard Shayna Gore battled foul trouble but still netted a game-high 36 points on 12-for-21 shooting and also hit three 3-pointers, grabbed four rebounds, dished out three assists and had two steals.
The game see-sawed back and forth as Logan jumped on top early and then grabbed a 54-51 lead after three quarters of play.
The Lady Cats then opened the fourth quarter on a 13-2 run with Gore sitting on the bench with her fourth foul.
Princeton hoped to rally with Gore out of the game, but Logan senior Hannah Tothe picked up the slack, hitting a big 3-pointer and three foul shots as the Lady Cats opened up a 13-point lead with five minutes to play. Tothe finished with 11 points and seven rebounds.
Logan also got another double-double from freshman center Monica Mitchell who had 18 points and 17 rebounds in addition to two blocked shots.
“So many people not associated with our program think if Shayna’s not in the game, then we’re beat,” Logan coach Kevin Gertz said. “She’s very aggressive but sometimes she gets frustrated. But she’s been in foul trouble our last four games, and every time Hannah has slowed our team down and we’ve expanded the lead every single time.”
The Lady Cats held Princeton’s top player McKenzie Akers, a Marshall University signee, to 17 points on 6-for-30 shooting. The Tigers were only 24-for-83 from the floor for an ice-cold 28.9 percent. Logan hit on 26-for-46 field goals for 56.5 percent.
“We just beat a heck of a ball club,” Gertz said of Princeton. “McKenzie Akers is a top-notch player in this state. She’s one of the top four or five Triple-A players in the state and we held her to eight or nine points under her average. She scored 17 points and it took 30 shots to do it. I’m real proud of them. I’ve got three young ladies up here who all played super ballgames (Gore, Tothe and Mitchell) but there was room on this table for one more. Kyra Cline only took two shots the entire game but couldn’t have played a better game defensively on one of the premiere players in this state in Akers. I’m glad to be moving on to face Spring Valley.”
Gertz said Logan’s girls’ program has grown by leaps and bounds. The win over Princeton was another step in the right direction.
“It means a lot,” Gertz said. “It means a lot to be one of the last four standing in the Triple-A field. The year before my first year here we were 144th in the MetroNews Power Index. This really means a lot to this program because I’ve gotten them to believe. I’ve got some phenomenal players and phenomenal athletes that people are just now starting to learn about.”
Princeton was able to make a game of it late as the Tigers cut the Logan lead to 70-64 with 1:51 left on a layup by Jessica Inman.
But with 1:27 left an intentional foul called on Princeton’s Khadija Payne put Monica Mitchell at the line and thwarted the comeback. Mitchell split from the free throw line and Logan was able to hold off the Tigers.
Gore and Tothe added free throws to make it 73-64 with 1:03 left.
Mitchell split from the line with 55.1 ticks to go and Tothe netted two more to make it 76-64 with 50.3 seconds remaining to put it out of reach.
Mitchell said she’s excited to play again in the state tourney on Friday.
“I’ve always dreamed of coming to the state tournament, and now we’re here,” Mitchell said. “So we’re going to try to win it all. It means the world to me and my teammates. A lot of teams don’t get the chance to do this and in the past we haven’t got to. It’s an honor to be here. We’re not going to give up and we’re going to go all the way.”
Tothe, one of Logan’s “elder statesmen,” if you will, said she’s glad to move on to the semifinals. She gave the team a big morale boost early in the fourth quarter with the game still in doubt. One member of the media dubbed her the “dragonslayer.”
“I feel like the mother out there on the floor,” joked Tothe. “Shayna makes a few mistakes and gets her head out of the game. She gets down on herself more than anyone else. Kyra does the same thing and so does Monica. If I lose my head we’ll all lose it, so I have to be there to pick everyone up. I try to stay calm and keep everyone in line.”
Hannah Preservati shared Princeton’s game-high honors with 17 points. She has played lately with a torn ACL. Inman added 12 and Marissa Mullins 10. Payne had six points and 10 rebounds. Akers handed out a game-high nine assists.
“I hate to go out this way, but it had to end sometime,” Akers said. “We’re a never die team. We were down 14 points and we battled back. It just didn’t turn out the way that we wanted to.”
Logan also got six points from Rachelle Toppings, three from Kyra Cline and two from Jenna Kimler off the bench.
The Lady Cats jumped out to a 15-3 lead but Princeton battled back to within 19-16 after one.
The Tigers outscored Logan 18-15 in the second to forge a 34-34 tie at halftime.
“I thought that we started off a little bit slow,” Princeton coach Debbie Ball said. “But the fact that we were down 14 points and battled back speaks a lot for this team. Our shots didn’t drop and their’s did. It was just their day. It wasn’t our day.”
Ball had praise for Logan.
“Logan is a really good team and Gore is a really good ballplayer,” she said. “We’ve always had trouble playing big teams. We’ve had problems with that all year but somehow managed to pull it out.”
The Lady Cats outrebounded Princeton 45-44 but turned the ball over 19 times to just eight for the Tigers.
Logan was 20-for-33 from the foul line for 60.6 percent. PHS was only 8-for-16 for 50 percent.
Gore and the Lady Cats set the tone early, racing out to a 15-3 lead. Gore hit a 3-pointer during the run and had two layups.
Princeton then went on a 13-4 run to pull to within 19-16 after one. Mullins keyed the comeback with a pair of treys, while Inman also hit one from 3-point land.
In the second, the Tigers took their first lead of the game at 24-23 with Payne’s drive to the bucket with 5:27 left until halftime.
The game then see-sawed and was tied at 27 and 32.
With Logan down 34-32, Gore scored on a 14-foot pull-up jumper to make it 34-all at the break.
Princeton then took the initiate in the early moments of a back-and-forth third quarter, grabbing a 44-40 lead after a pair of 3-pointers by Preservati, who was 5-for-10 from behind the arc for the game.
Logan then tied it at 45 with a Mitchell hoop with 3:38 left in the third.
Gore tied it at 47 with a 15-foot jumper and Princeton later knotted it up at 49 with a jumper by Payne.
Gore then gave the Lady Cats a jolt with a 3-pointer and a drive down the lane to make it 54-51 before picking up her fourth foul.
Then in the fourth, it was all Logan, led by Tothe.
Cline was also big as she nailed a 3 with 5:31 left to make it 65-54 Lady Cats. A bucket by Mitchell then made it 67-54.
Gore said Logan is looking forward to the rematch with Spring Valley. The Lady Cats nearly upset the Lady Wolves in the sectional finals.
“It’s not going to be easy,” Gore said of Spring Valley. “Spring Valley’s a tough team and we all think they’re the top team in the state. But if we play like we’ve been playing here lately we’ll stay right with them.”
Spring Valley was led by the triple-double effort of Sarah Kelley against Capital as she had 20 points, 12 assists and 10 steals. Madison Morris had a double-double with 27 points and 15 rebounds.
Friday night’s other Class AAA semifinal at 9 p.m. pits No. 2 seed Morgantown against the winner of Thursday night’s late game which had No. 3 seed Parkersburg South and No. 6 Hedgesville battling it out.
The semifinal winners are slated to meet on Saturday at 7:15 p.m. in the 3A state championship game at the Civic Center.
If Logan beats Spring Valley and Morgantown moves on to the finals the Lady Cats and Lady Mohigans would meet for a rubber match.
Logan won 64-61 over Morgantown on Jan. 4 at home and lost 66-46 later in the season on the road.