FROSTBURG — Most people that attended the Mountain Ridge and Frankfort girls game on Thursday probably didn’t anticipate a two-point margin at the end of the first quarter.
Falcon standouts Maria Perdew and Makenna Douthitt were both held scoreless in the opening eight minutes, but the Miners could only maintain their frenetic defense for so long.
Frankfort eventually hit its stride and scored with ease in the second half to dispatch Mountain Ridge, 67-38, and improve its record to 9-1.
“We have a real bad habit of coming out slow and lethargic,” Falcons head coach Michael Miller said. “But I’m pleased with the overall effort and the response.”
While the Falcons have started leisurely at times this year, the opening against the Miners was sluggish even by those standards. Earlier this season, Frankfort beat Keyser, 78-22 — the Golden Tornado scraped out a 45-43 win over Mountain Ridge on Dec. 11 — so a one-possession game after a quarter would’ve seemed impossible prior to Thursday.
But Mountain Ridge played with intensity at the onset, frequently forcing Frankfort into bad shots and limiting the favored side to one-and-done possessions. When the horn sounded at the end of the first, Douthitt and Perdew were a non-factor in the 10-8 period.
“They’re a pretty balanced team, so there really wasn’t anybody that we could sag off of,” Miners head coach Valery Broadwater said. “We just wanted to come out with some intensity defensively, and we did that.”
When the Falcons did miss, the Miners came down with most of the boards. And no Mountain Ridge player was bigger on the glass than Dayna Lashley, who used her frame to bully the opposing forwards down low on both ends of the floor.
“She does a good job rebounding,” Broadwater said. “She can be a force when she wants to be.”
Miller knew Mountain Ridge had a size advantage coming in and his team took a while to adjust to the Miners’ physicality, which was compounded by its struggles to defend without fouling in the first half.
“I told the girls a lot of it was their fault,” he said. “They’re reaching still. Whether they were fouls or not, they look like fouls. So if they look like fouls they’re going to call them.”
Mountain Ridge was already in the bonus part way through the opening quarter, but it couldn’t capitalize because of poor shooting from the line — the Miners were 5 of 11.
Perdew got her first points on a slicing lay-up in the first minute of the second quarter — she still finished with a game-high 16 points on six makes — and Douthitt got on the board with a pair of free throws less than a minute later as the Falcons started to garner some momentum. Douthitt finished with 11 points.
At the half, Frankfort had opened its lead to 29-17.
“I told them, get rid of the ball quicker, spread them out a little bit,” Miller said. “We got better spacing after the first. I knew by moving the ball a little more, making them have to cover more of the court, that would work to our advantage.”
Though Mountain Ridge came out of intermission trailing by double digits, the squad didn’t relent. The Miners clawed to within 10 at 33-23 at one point in the third and were only outscored 16-14 in the frame, but Frankfort still led 45-31 entering the fourth.
The Falcons’ depth eventually wore on Mountain Ridge as the night progressed, and the Miners’ energy on the defensive end waned accordingly. Frankfort dominated the final period 22-7 to earn the 29-point victory.
“Their scoring is balanced,” Broadwater said. “There’s not really one person that dominates like there’s been for Frankfort in the past. When one person has a bad game, somebody else picks up the slack.”
In addition to Perdew and Douthitt, the Falcons had two other players reach double figures in Hailey Smith with 13 points on six buckets and Macie Miller’s 12 on only one make but she was 10 for 14 at the line.
Ashley Phillips nearly eclipsed that threshold, scoring nine on four field goals.
For the Miners, Maddie Paris led the way with 14 points on six buckets. Abbie Maddy notched nine on four makes.
Earlier this year, Broadwater discussed Maddy’s inconsistencies as an underclassman adjusting to varsity play. Although she still had a few unforced errors on Thursday, she was one of the bright spots for Mountain Ridge offensively.
“She played better offensively and defensively for us tonight,” Broadwater said. “It’s a learning process, but we’re getting there.”
It wasn’t the Falcons’ best performance of the season, but Miller knows an imperfect night can be a valuable teaching tool.
“A win is a win so we’ll take it,” he said. “But we have a lot of areas to improve upon. A quicker start is what we need going forward.”
Frankfort faces Bishop Walsh at home and Mountain Ridge takes on Northern on the road on Monday.
In the junior varsity game, the Falcons beat the Miners, 30-27. Tinsley Grove and Veronica VanMeter each had 11 points to lead Frankfort. Mary Delaney and Bayleigh Lamberson had eight apiece for Mountain Ridge.
Alex Rychwalski is a sports writer for the Cumberland Times-News. Follow him on Twitter @archwal.