MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Entering the halftime locker room Thursday night, Trinity Christian’s defense on Marié Perdew exceeded that of any team against the Frankfort star all season.
The junior was hounded whenever she touched the rock — she had just three points and the Warriors led 26-22 at the break — but it was only a matter of time.
Perdew caught fire with a personal 7-0 burst to grab the lead right after the break, and with the help of Halley Smith and Larae Grove, Frankfort pulled away to dispatch Trinity, 60-48, to win the Class AA, Region II co-Championship and advance to the state tournament next week.
“We knew Trinity was going to come out with a lot of emotion, a lot of heart,” Falcons head coach Mike Miller said. “We figured we could weather the storm. We knew they were going to shoot some threes, didn’t think they were going to be as successful as they were.
“We went in and made a couple of adjustments at halftime, ramped up our defense a little bit, came out and ran a couple different looks that they hadn’t seen before. And it got us some open looks, got us some shots down low and got us going a little bit. To me, that’s what wore them down in the second half.”
After falling to Petersburg in the Section 1 final last week, Frankfort (15-3) was forced to make the trek up I-68 to take on a capable Trinity (9-6) side. With a trip to Charleston on the line, the Warriors were up to the challenge.
Trinity hit five first-half 3-pointers, a combination of streaky shooting and a few slow closeouts, and following a deep trey by Jac Smith from the top of the arc, the Warriors led 25-17 late in the half. Smith finished with a team-high 12 points.
With the defense heavily focused on slowing Perdew, the junior had just one field goal before the break.
“They did a good job of containing her,” Miller said, “people stepping out, watching her up high while someone was watching her down low. They were just kind of shadowing her.”
Perdew — who finished with 17 points and five rebounds — hit a pair of foul shots on the first possession of the third and drilled a 3-pointer the next trip down the floor to give Frankfort its first lead of the night, 27-26. The quick burst was part of a larger 23-6 run, which put the Falcons ahead by nine.
When Perdew’s shots started falling, it seemed to give her teammates all the confidence in the world, evidenced by Frankfort’s 24-11 third-quarter onslaught.
“The girls have played in these games before,” Miller said. “It was just staying confident and playing within themselves and playing with each other. ... We did rely heavily on Marié. Unfortunately her shot wasn’t going tonight, so we had to distribute the ball and get it to someone who was making them. And that ended up being several girls that stepped up.”
Halley Smith carried the torch in the first half with Grove and Perdew struggling, as the junior tallied 11 of her game-high 20 points — she shot 10 for 12 from the line — prior to the intermission.
In her first game back after missing the sectional finals due to quarantine, Smith stuffed the stat sheet, adding 11 rebounds for a double-double to go along with six steals and six assists.
“She’s the heart and soul of our team defensively,” Miller said. “It was great getting her back in practice, and great to see her perform well tonight. Without her we don’t go anywhere, it’s that simple.”
Grove contributed a double-double of her own with 14 points and 10 rebounds. She tallied nine points during Frankfort’s dominant third period, including a triple and another of the old-fashioned variety.
Izzy Layton ended with seven points and four rebounds, and Arin Lease scored two for the Falcons.
Trinity did claw its way back into the game in the fourth. Jac Smith trimmed the deficit to 47-40 with 6:20 left after a corner 3-pointer, but the Warriors never got closer.
Trinity closed out the action with seven 3-pointers scored by four different players. After Smith, Maggie Mercure was the second-leading scorer with nine points, all on triples.
Jenna Barnett and Ruby Smith-McCrobie tallied eight each, followed by Paige Smith with six and Olivia Austin with five.
Frankfort, seeded fourth in the state tournament next week, faces the fifth-seeded Williamstown Yellow Jackets (13-5), who got past St. Mary’s, 51-48, in the Region 1 finals. The matchup is Tuesday morning at 11:15 a.m.
“Couple years ago we lost Abby (Beeman), everybody said we wouldn’t make it back to Charleston,” Miller said. “This group of girls still plays with a lot of heart. They’re competitive, they’re young. We have a good mix. We still have a lot to speak for come next week down at Charleston. I hope they count us out, we’re expecting that, and we like being an underdog.”