Huntington drove to the state championship Saturday.
The top-seeded Highlanders (16-1) continually scored off drives to the basket in defeating arch-rival and second-seeded Cabell Midland 58-49 in the girls Class AAAA girls basketball state tournament championship game at the Charleston Coliseum.
“I just did what I’m good at,” said senior guard LaTahia Jackson, one of three Huntington players who scored 13 points.”
Huntington led 41-38 with 7:20 left to play. Dionna Gray then scored back-to-back baskets on drives through the lane to make it 45-38. Ravyn Goodson followed by slicing to the goal for another score, prompting the Knights to call time out with 5:37 left.
Gray again took the ball to the basket for a layup with 3:53 remaining to give the Highlanders a 49-38 lead. The basket capped a 12-1 run Gray started with a free throw to tie it at 37-37 with 26 seconds to go in the half.
“If my shots aren’t falling, I need to take it to the basket more,” Gray said. “I wanted the ball in my hands.”
The 5-foot-3 junior struggled in the first half, going 1 for 6 overall and 0 for 3 from 3-point range. In the second half, Gray drove hard and usually either scored or was fouled. In the final 16 minutes she was 3 for 5 from the floor and 5 for 6 at the free-throw line.
With its lead at 11 points, Gray and Kaiti Swann, another 13-point scorer, dribbled away much of the remaining time, hindering Cabell Midland’s chances to come back.
“We don’t really stall except in certain situations,” said Huntington coach Lonnie Lucas, who won his third state title. “We kept the ball in the right hands. Down the stretch, I wanted the ball in Dionna’s and Kaiti’s hands.”
Swann, a Potomac State signee, made six free throws in the last two minutes to put the game away.
“Kaiti did a wonderful job knocking down free throws,” Gray said.
Imani Hickman scored eight points and snagged 11 rebounds for the Highlanders. She also blocked two shots and made one steal.
The Knights led most of the first half and by as many as five points after Jazmyn Wheeler’s basket off a drive with 1:30 left until halftime. Huntington, though, tied it when Jackson converted a 3-point play and Gray followed with a layup at the buzzer to send the teams to intermission tied 20-20.
“Everybody can say it’s nice to get here, and it is,” Cabell Midland coach Matt Adkins said before his voice trailed off with the disappointment in losing. “We made a third-quarter run and then we couldn’t hit our shots. Hats off to them. Their shots fell in that run they made.”
Jayda Allie led the Knights (14-4) with 11 points. Alderson Broaddus recruit Autumn Lewis scored nine points and grabbed a game-high 12 rebounds. Wheeler pulled down 10 rebounds.