PETERSBURG, W.Va — When Petersburg’s Jenna Burgess scored the final of her 17 points in the fourth quarter against No. 3 Frankfort on Thursday, the bucket was bittersweet.
With 30 seconds left on the clock, the field goal was the Vikings’ first of the frame; the Falcons, meanwhile, had scored 17 themselves.
And what was once a narrow four-point lead for Frankfort had grown to nearly 20 after a 17-2 run to begin the deciding quarter, as the Falcons eventually wore down the opposition to rout Petersburg, 80-61, to improve to 15-1 on the season.
“Little too close for comfort, but hey, we expected that,” Frankfort coach Michael Miller said. “We haven’t had a meaningful game in a while, little rusty in the beginning, but I think it was more a tribute to how Petersburg played.”
Frankfort entered its road matchup with the Vikings having not been tested in nearly a month. In its last four matchups, the closest was a 45-point beatdown of Elkins on Jan. 20, and the Falcons’ home matchup with Petersburg on Dec. 10 was a dominant 93-35 triumph.
This time around, however, the Vikings came to play.
Against Frankfort, many teams try to slow the fast-paced, open-court style of play the Falcons generally overwhelm their opponents with, which usually amounts to little success. Petersburg decided to fight fire with fire.
The Vikings scored their first six points of the night in transition, as they ran out to an 11-10 lead.
“They came out, they were on fire,” Miller said. “They were doing things to keep us off-balance, took away from our strengths. I was surprised that they were running up and down the court the way they were. They were catching us being lazy. They were getting the ball down the court, getting behind our defense.”
But the Falcons immediately righted the ship. Makenna Douthitt scored a tough bucket through contact plus the foul and Ashley Phillips repeated the move on the next possession to cap off a 10-2 burst, prompting Petersburg coach Jon Webster to call a timeout with his team reeling.
Douthitt notched 13 points before the break — she finished with 23 — as the senior’s experience was on full display in a tough road environment.
“She’s been solid all year, she’s our rock,” Miller said. “Knowing that she can play anywhere on the court makes me feel comfortable, makes me feel at ease.”
Trailing 30-19 in the second quarter, the Vikings countered with a push of their own. Following a Kayla Lantz triple from the corner, Petersburg’s run had swelled to 10-0 to come within one. Lantz went for 15 points prior to halftime, she led all scorers with 24.
Yet, Macie Miller was the star of the first half for Frankfort with 15 points, she buried a trio of 3-pointers. Miller has come on in the latter stages this year, and she led the Falcons with 24 points.
“Macie’s really been playing unbelievable basketball here in the last couple weeks,” Miller said. “Her ankle’s finally healthy, she’s back to being herself.”
There was some controversy at the end of the half.
After Kymiee Minnich converted an and-one to pull the Vikings closer, Lantz hit a prayer of a three from deep to bring her squad within 39-38. The clock appeared to not start when the ball was inbounded with about six seconds left, but after the referees huddled, the make was ruled good. Just like that, Petersburg was within a point entering the locker room.
Early in the third quarter, Lantz hit another jumper, this time of the midrange variety to pull the Vikings in front for the first time since the early portion of the first quarter. The teams went back-and-forth for much of the frame, that is until Maria Perdew caught fire.
Perdew only had two points while struggling with foul trouble before the break, but she took over in the third. Behind 55-52, the sophomore went on a personal 6-0 run to put Frankfort ahead again. She later swished a triple for her ninth point of the quarter — she finished with 18 — and the Falcons led 61-57 entering the fourth.
“We had to take her out (in the first half), and she’s a big part of our offense,” Miller said. “Once she got going and was able to put in some consecutive minutes into the game, she caught a little hot streak and that really helped propel us.”
Though Petersburg hung tough playing up-tempo for three quarters, the final eight minutes proved to be too much. Shot-after-shot struck the front of the iron, highlighting the tired legs of the Vikings, who didn’t manage a point until the waning moments. Frankfort dominated the decisive stretch 19-4.
“The girls yell at me all the time because they don’t want to run,” Miller said. “I’ve made them uncomfortable in practice this past week because they haven’t had a meaningful game in a while. So we had worked on our conditioning, and they were up to the challenge tonight and it paid off in the fourth quarter.”
On paper, the 19-point Frankfort win looks like another one-sided affair. But the contest was tight the majority of the night, and for a team that’s used to games being decided at halftime, the victory could provide vital experience come tournament time.
“Coming down the stretch we need games like that,” Miller said. “It was necessary. I don’t like it because of my blood pressure, but at the same time it was needed, and the girls know now that they’re not bigger than what they are.”
Frankfort (15-1) squared off against Keyser on the road Friday. Its next game is at Tucker on Tuesday.
Petersburg (16-4) faces Pendleton at home on Tuesday.
Alex Rychwalski is a sports reporter for the Cumberland Times-News. Follow him on Twitter @arychwal.