TENNERTON – Sectional champs!
The Buckhannon-Upshur Lady Bucs can add that title to their 2021-22 resume after they held on for a 47-43 victory over the University Hawks for the sectional championship Friday night at the high school.
It is the first sectional championship since the 2017-18 team captured one on their way to state runner-up honors.
“I am so proud of the girls,” remarked Buckhannon-Upshur head coach Rob Kittle. “They played so hard tonight. Every time University would make a run, we seemed to have an answer. I couldn’t be prouder and happier for them. This is what we have worked for all season.
“This is an unreal moment for the team. This is their first sectional championship. Just to experience it, it is huge for the girls. I told them to come out tonight and play for each other and lay everything on the line — and they did.”
The Hawks entered the battle on a three-game winning streak, including an impressive 58-54 win over Parkersburg South in their regular-season finale last Thursday.
‘University has been as good anybody in the state of late,” said Kittle. “So for us to come out and control the game and lead it most of the way was huge.”
Junior Kendal Currence, who injured her leg after a confrontation under the basket early in the contest, was the only Lady Buc to reach double digits as she had a team-high 13 points while contributing seven rebounds, four steals, three assists, and two blocks.
Currence said the large turnout for the game helped her and her team to victory.
“I just fed off of playing at home in front of such a huge crowd,” Currence said. “The crowd kept our energy going. It felt like we had the whole community here supporting us. It feels great beating a good team like University for the sectional championship. No one on the team has been able to cut down the net after a sectional championship, so it was so exciting for all of us.”
“She has been banged up all year with a hip and ankle,” commented Kittle about Currence. “She is a warrior. She was great on the glass tonight and challenged so many of University’s shots.”
Following a lay-up from Alyssa Abel that treated the Lady Bucs to a 6-4 lead, University scored the next two baskets of the game for an 8-6 lead with 2:51 remaining in the opening quarter.
It was the only time the Lady Bucs trailed in the game.
B-U scored the final six points of the quarter, getting baskets by Gabby Parke, Abel and Currence taking a 12-8 lead heading into the second quarter.
Olivia Ellis unleashed a three-pointer to start the second quarter and Kyndal Davis scored from underneath, making it a 17-8 advantage in favor of B-U.
A Kenna Maxwell trey kept the Lady Bucs up by seven at 23-16, but University’s Ella Simpson ended the half with a lay-up as B-U owned a 23-18 lead at the intermission.
University used a 5-0 early run in the third quarter to pull within two of B-U at 25-23, but the Lady Bucs answered with an 8-0 run, getting six points from Shelby McDaniels and a two from Parke as they extended their lead to 10 at 33-23 with 2:40 remaining in the third quarter.
Ellis uncorked another three-pointer to end the stanza, giving B-U their biggest lead of the game heading into the final quarter, at 36-25.
University started the fourth quarter with an 8-2 run bringing the B-U lead down to five, at 38-33, before Currence knocked down two foul shots to make it a 40-33 contest with 4:14 remaining.
With the Lady Bucs nursing a 42-38 advantage, Parke hit a huge three-pointer upping the Lady Buc lead to 45-38 with 2:34 left.
The Lady Bucs couldn’t put away the Hawks as the visitors went on a 5-0 run over the next 90 seconds, closing the B-U lead down to two at 45-43 with 1:03 remaining.
Abel scored on a fastbreak lay-up with 22 seconds left to put the Lady Bucs up 47-43.
B-U missed the front end of a pair of one and one situations, but the Lady Buc defense didn’t allow University another basket as they held on for the four-point win.
Kittle praised his bench for their effort in the win.
“Their points were pretty much the difference in the game,” said Kittle as Ellis tallied eight points and Davis two. “Ellis was incredible and Davis gave us great effort.”
Kittle said his team never quit or folded when University made their late run to make it a two-point game.
“We could have folded very easily when University got it down to two points after we had a couple of turnovers,” remarked Kittle. “But we kept battling and got the key stops when we needed them. They worked so hard this year and they deserve this.”
Simpson led University with 17 points as the Hawks dropped to 9-11 on the season. They will visit Morgantown in their regional battle next week after Morgantown downed Wheeling Park by a 55-50 score in their sectional title game.
McDaniels, Abel and Ellis all had eight points for the Lady Bucs as they improved to 19-5 on the year.
Abel hauled in a game-high 13 rebounds for B-U.
Buckhannon-Upshur will host Wheeling Park on Wednesday at 7 p.m. with a trip to the state tournament on the line.
“We have three of the top six teams in the state,” concluded Kittle. “Wheeling Park is a great team. It is going to be a battle. Hopefully, we can knock them off and make our way to Charleston.”
Wheeling Park won the regular-season battle between the two teams by a score of 77-43 back on Jan. 8.
University 8 10 7 18 – 43
Buckhannon-Upshur 12 11 13 11 – 47
Ella Simpson 7-20 3-4 17; Emily Sharkey 5-11 2-2 13; Eden Gibson 2-10 0-1 4; Hannah Stemple 1-8 2-4 4; Lyla Byers 1-9 0-3 2; Aza Boateng 1-4 0-0 2; Jeremiah Martin 0-0 1-2 1; Ashlyn Weaver 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 17-63 8-17 43.
Kendal Currence 5-12 2-2 13; Shelby McDaniels 3-13 2-2 8; Alyssa Abel 4-10 0-2 8; Olivia Ellis 3-4 0-1 8; Gabby Parke 2-4 0-0 5; Kenna Maxwell 1-8 0-1 3; Kyndal Davis 1-1 0-0 2. Totals 19-52 4-7 47.
Three-point field goals – University: Sharkey 1-4; Byers 0-5; Gibson 0-5; Stemple 0-5; Simpson 0-1; Totals 1-20; Buckhannon-Upshur: Ellis 2-2; Currence 1-2; Maxwell 1-5; Parke 1-1; McDaniels 0-6. Totals 5-16.
Rebounds – University: team 13; Byers 9; Simpson 8 Boateng 7; Gibson 3; Sharkey 3; Martin 2; Weaver 1; deadball 1 Totals 47; Buckhannon-Upshur: Abel 13; McDaniels 9; Currence 7; team 5; Maxwell 3; Davis 2; Ellis 2; Parke 2; deadball 1. Totals 44.
Assists – University: Gibson 4; Sharkey 1; Stemple 1. Totals 6; Buckhannon-Upshur: McDaniels 4; Currence 3; Maxwell 3; Ellis 2; Abel 1. Totals 13.
Steals – University: Simpson 3; Gibson 2; Stemple 2. Totals 7; Buckhannon-Upshur: McDaniels 5; Currence 4; Maxwell 3; Ellis 1; Abel 1. Totals 14.
Blocked shots – University: Simpson 2. Totals 2; Buckhannon-Upshur: Currence 2; Davis 1; Ellis 1; McDaniels 1; Parke 1. Totals 6.
Turnovers – University: 15; Buckhannon-Upshur: 16.
Personal fouls – University: 12; Buckhannon-Upshur: 15.