In the preceding Region D, Division 1 title game, Clintwood’s girls basketball program hoisted a regional championship trophy for the first time in a generation after fighting off Castlewood 58-56.
In the first half of the nightcap, both teams looked out of sorts. Numerous turnovers and missed shots kept Gate City (15-12) within striking distance of favored Central (26-1).
Lady Warriors coach Robin Dotson credited the Lady Blue Devils’ game plan with creating problems for his team’s high-powered offense.
“It seems like they were able to do some things early on to keep us from getting into a groove,” he said.
To be competitive against Central, said Gate City coach Kelly Houseright, her team had to find ways to limit scoring opportunities for Lady Warriors stars Hayley Wyrick and Logan Reynolds.
“We knew they are their go-to players,” Houseright said. “We just wanted to try to deny them the ball as much as possible.”
Houseright credited her team with playing stingy defense, but said the Lady Devils committed far too many turnovers — often leading to easy points for Central.
“Central turned the ball over at times, but we didn’t capitalize on those opportunities,” she said.
Late in the third quarter, the Lady Warriors finally found their shooting touch. They went on an 11-0 run to take control of the game.
Reynolds and Wyrick led Central with 19 and 16 points, respectively.
Morgan Gose led Gate City with 18 points, including two 3-pointers late in the second quarter.
Saturday’s victory will keep Central close to home for the VHSL Group A state quarterfinals. The Lady Warriors will host Region C runner-up Patrick Henry next weekend at Virginia-Wise.
The Lady Devils will travel to Salem Civic Center to face Floyd County.
In an ending suitable for a Hollywood script, the Lady Greenwave’s Kayla Mullins drained back-to-back free throws with 17 seconds remaining to break a 56-56 tie and secure Clintwood’s first regional championship in more than two decades.
“I was so nervous when I went to the line to take those shots,” Mullins admitted, “but I was able to hit them. I knew if I just concentrated that I would make them.”
The freshman, who scored 29 points and was 7-for-10 from the free throw line, performed like a seasoned veteran for the Lady Greenwave (17-9).
“Clintwood started posting her up,” said Castlewood coach Barry Ruff. “She was able to cut and slice to the basket. That’s where we got into trouble today.”
For most of Saturday’s contest, Clintwood set the pace. Trailing by double digits in the early moments of the third quarter, the Lady Blue Devils stormed back into the mix with a barrage of 3-pointers.
“We were able to build a 12- point lead,” said Clintwood coach Donnie Frazier. “But I was told in the scouting report that Castlewood can really hit the 3-pointers. And man, did they ever start letting them rain today.”
Castlewood’s Haley Crabtree, Lexie Kennedy and Korey Purtee combined for four treys in the third quarter to cut the Clintwood lead to 46-43.
Kennedy’s hot streak continued into the opening moments of the fourth when she hit a 3-pointer to tie the game at 46.
The Lady Devils (20-6) briefly grabbed a 52-51 lead late in the contest with a Kennedy 3-pointer.
“We got behind early and we spent most of the second half trying to come from behind,” Ruff said. “That’s nothing new for us. We’ve had to that plenty of times before. Today, it just came back to bite us."
Kennedy led Castlewood with 14 points, including four treys.
In the upcoming state quarterfinals, Castlewood will travel to Salem to take on Region C champion Covington, and Clintwood will host Region C runner-up Northwood at Virginia-Wise.