SHORT GAP, W.Va. — Frankfort withstood the pressure for the first quarter, but Lincoln’s full-court defense eventually wore the Falcons down over the second and third quarters as the Cougars pulled away to win the West Virginia Class AA, Region II final with a 53-32 win Wednesday in Short Gap.
Lincoln broke up a close game by using their defense to force turnovers and create a number of runs over the middle two quarters. A 9-9 tie at the end of the first quarter turned into an 18-point lead entering the fourth.
Jitters seemed to affect both teams during the early minutes after the tip. Each team was called for traveling on its first possession, while both teams turned the ball over again on the second possession. The Falcons would commit a turnover or a violation on four of their first five times on offense, but took a 2-0 lead on a bucket by Maddie Pfaff at the 6:20 mark.
Lincoln scored the next five points with the final three coming on a three-point play by Makayla McEwayne, but Pfaff tied it after a three-point play of her own just seconds later. The first quarter ended after an exchange of baskets in the closing minute.
Pfaff was the Flacons leader in the first half, recording all six of her points in the opening two quarters.
The Cougars went on a 6-0 run over the first two minutes of the second quarter with Emily Knight scoring all six points. Knight would finish the evening with a game-high 18 points.
Frankfort closed to within 15-14 with 3:35 to go before halftime on a baseline jumper by Katie Jan, but Lincoln outscored Frankfort 7-1 over the final three minutes of the half to lead 22-15 at the break, and then on a 12-2 run covering the first 6:30 of the third quarter.
Frankfort, which struggled early on against the press, but made up for it on the defensive end, began to crack against the full-court intensity from Lincoln during these long runs by the Cougars.
“We knew what to expect regarding their press, but we didn’t handle it like we could have,” said Frankfort Head Coach Mike Orndorf. “The idea was to go directly into our half-court offense as soon as we broke the press, and when we accomplished that, we got some better looks, but Lincoln did a great job of taking that away from us as the game went on.”
The Cougars played their best during the third quarter, outscoring the Falcons 16-5 over the eight minutes. McEwayne added five more points on her way to a total of 13, and became more of a presence on the inside to finish with five rebounds.
The glass is the one place the Falcons did hold an edge. Stephanie Cornachia had 11 rebounds to go along with her six points, and guard Mikala Miller had eight rebounds with seven points.
Many of those rebounds, though, came off the extra shot opportunities created by Lincoln’s defense and Frankfort turnovers. The pressing defense help to force the Falcons into 20 turnovers.
Lincoln spent most of the fourth quarter at the foul line and spent that time wisely by sinking 11 of 12 free throws. Frankfort put together its best quarter offensively by scoring 11 points in the fourth, but was already too far behind to catch up.
“While the result isn’t what we were hoping for, I can’t complain about the effort the girls gave.” said Orndorf. “All four of our seniors just played their last game and every one of them left it all on the court. Just like they have all four years of their career. You hate to say goodbye to players like that, but it’s nice to know the girls coming back have the same work ethic.”
Lincoln (16-9) advances to the state tournament along with Bridgeport, who is the other Region II representative after a 57-39 win over Berkeley Springs on Wednesday. The Class AA State Tournament begins on March 6 at the Charleston Civic Center.
After winning the West Virginia Class AA Region II, Section 1 championship by beating Keyser and then Berkeley Springs, Frankfort concludes its season at 14-11.
Chris Appel is a sportswriter for the Times-News. Contact him at email@example.com.