SHORT GAP - To be the best, you've got to beat the best. It's an axiom heard time and time again in sports. The message coming out of Short Gap this season is clear - the Lady Falcons are on a mission to get to Charleston, and not just get to Charleston, but win the whole darn thing.
By Chapin Jewell
SHORT GAP - To be the best, you’ve got to beat the best. It’s an axiom heard time and time again in sports. The message coming out of Short Gap this season is clear - the Lady Falcons are on a mission to get to Charleston, and not just get to Charleston, but win the whole darn thing.
Frankfort lost to eventual state champion North Marion in the state semifinals last year, a game that saw them up by as much as 16 points in the second half. A heartbreaking ending to an otherwise remarkable season.
It’s one year later, and with the highest of expectations, coach Mike Miller’s Falcons have tested themselves as much as any AA team can, competing right out of the gate with the toughest teams in the state. Starting off the season in Fairmont’s Frank Hines Memorial Basketball Mixer, the Lady Falcons matched up with perennial AAA power Morgantown, winners of the 2014, 2015 and 2016 state championships and AAA Buckhannon-Upshur, a team who finished 24-4 last year and as the state’s runner-up each of the last two seasons.
The purpose of the tournament is to provide matchups between the best A and AA teams in the state with the best in AAA. The Lady Falcons came away with a 1-1 record after a tough weekend of play, losing narrowly to Morgantown 52-46, but beating Buckhannon-Upshur 51-49 in dramatic fashion with Abby Beeman’s three pointer at the buzzer.
Frankfort loses to Morgantown 52-46
Frankfort outscored the Lady Mohigans in three of the game’s four periods; 10-9 in the first, 9-8 in the third, and 16-15 in the fourth. Unfortunately, Morgantown bested the Falcons with a 20-11 advantage in the second period to propel them to a 29-21 halftime lead and eventual 52-46 victory.
Frankfort’s one point edge in three of the game’s four periods is indicative of just how close the game was. It was, however, Morgantown’s 12-0 run from the 3:52 to 2:00 mark in the second period that made all the difference. At the beginning of the run, the game was tied at 15 points apiece. Morgantown’s 6’1” senior Sydni Clawges would start things off with a two point field goal which was quickly followed by a Mohigan three pointer. In just 29 seconds Morgantown jumped out to a 20-15 lead. In the next minute, Clawges would score twice again from the field bumping the Mohigan lead to 9 (24-15). The final dagger of the run came when Morgantown converted a three point play with 2:00 to go in the half to go up 12 points (27-15).
Not rattled by Morgantown’s run, Frankfort’s Abby Beeman and Makenna Douthitt would each drain a three pointer in the final 1:08 of first half play. With one more field goal thrown in the mix, the Mohigan lead was cut to 8 at the half.
Prior to Morgantown’s big second period, Frankfort used balanced play to spread the scoring around and take an early 10-9 lead at the end of one period of play. Abby Beeman would score the Falcon’s first two points followed by Douthitt’s three point conversion play. Frankfort’s Ashley Phillips would score on a three point field goal and Beeman added another two points on a layup following a steal.
Entering the second period with a 10-9 lead, the Falcons would be outscored by the Mohigans 20-11 in the second. Sydni Clawges would score 11 of Morgantown’s points in the second period. Makenna Douthitt would lead the Falcons in second period scoring with six points, followed by a three pointer by Beeman and two points from Haley Malone.
After a high scoring second period, offensive production slowed in the third. The Mohigans scored the first two points followed by a three pointer for Abby Beeman and the Falcons pulled to within six points (30-24) with 6:25 on the clock. Four minutes would run off with neither team managing a score. In the final two and a half minutes the Mohigans would edge the Falcons 7-6 to bring the third period to a close with Morgantown up 37-30. Douthitt would again lead the Falcons in scoring in the period with four points, followed by Beeman’s three along with two from Macie Miller.
Both offenses kicked back into gear in the fourth, matching the second period’s output with a combined 31 points. Frankfort would outscore Morgantown 16-15 but it was not enough to overcome their seven point deficit at the end of three. But the Falcons clawed back, fought hard, and never reduced their effort. In fact, when Abby Beeman hit a three pointer with 1:20 to go in the game, the Falcons got to within three points at 49-46. Morgantown, however, would score the final three points down the stretch on foul shouts to win the game 52-46. Douthitt would again lead the Falcons in scoring for the period with six points, followed by Beeman’s four and three each from Macie Miller and Marie Perdew.
In total, Makenna Douthitt led the Falcons with 19 points and seven rebounds. Abby Beeman added 14 points, six rebounds, six assists, two steals and one block. Macie Miller added five points, three rebounds and one block. Marie Perdew finished with three points and three rebounds, Ashley Phillips three points, five rebounds and two steals, and Haley Malone two points, four rebounds and one steal.
Morgantown entered the game with a decided size advantage. In fact, at 6’1” and 6’3”, the Mohigans’ Sydni Clawges and Kaitlyn Ammons are considered to be two of the better post players in the state. As has been pointed out, there may be teams with maybe one post player that big and skilled, but Morgantown has two. The Mohigans did finish with a 47-35 advantage in rebounds, but Frankfort’s smaller players underneath more than held their own. Nonetheless, it may have been the difference in the game.
According to Frankfort’s Abby Beeman, “Morgantown is a hard match up for us because they have so much size and we don’t have a girl over 5’9”. I think we could have hit some more shots but I am proud of the way we battled until the end.”
Frankfort coach Mike Miller had mixed emotions about his team’s performance against the Mohigans, but overall, views the experience as a positive one. “I was disappointed in the way we shot the ball, I felt like we were rushing everything and that tells me our nerves got the best of us. Morgantown has a lot of size, they were able to get too many second and third shot opportunities offensively and they took advantage of that. We hung in there and I like the way we competed and never gave up. I love our team and we will learn from this. This game helped us more than it hurt us and that was our main focus,” Miller explained.
After the late Friday, 9 p.m. game, the Falcons would have a short day of rest, getting right back into tournament play action Saturday at 5 p.m. against AAA Buckhannon-Upshur.
Frankfort defeats Buckhannon-Upshur 51-49
After a narrow defeat at the hands of Morgantown, the Lady Falcons returned to action on Saturday at the Fairmont Armory to take on AAA state runner-up Buckhannon-Upshur.
This time, the Falcons would get their win, a victory that came in the most dramatic of fashions. With 6.9 seconds remaining, down 49-48, Frankfort’s Ashley Phillips inbounded the ball to Abby Beeman, who then threw the ball to freshman Marie Perdew who became trapped by two defenders. Perdew then kicked it back out to Beeman who drained a long three pointer at the buzzer to lift the Falcons to a 51-49 win.
Beeman’s no stranger to buzzer beaters, in the state quarterfinals at the Charleston Civic Center last year, she drained a shot at the buzzer to lift the Falcons over Bridgeport and advance Frankfort into the state semifinals. The senior Shepherd commit thrives under pressure and is at ease with ball in her hands when the game is on the line. It seems the best players rise to the occasion in the biggest of games. While not post-season tournament play, this early season victory over one of AAA’s elite teams help to propel Frankfort off to a solid start for the year.
“Buckhannon-Upshur is a very good defensive team. I think when we started getting it to the middle on their press it really helped us. I knew we needed a win and I wanted to be the person to get that job done for us,” Beeman said in reflection.
The win gives the Lady Falcons momentum moving into a challenging second week of the season. On Thursday, Frankfort will host the defending Maryland 1A state champion Southern Rams. On Saturday they will travel to North Marion to take on the defending West Virginia AA state champion Huskies. So that’s two AAA powers and two defending state champions to kick off the year for Frankfort, themselves a state semi-finalist a year ago.
Buckhannon-Upshur dominated the first period of play, leading Frankfort 21-13 at the end of one. Alli Robinson and Audrey Gaudet combined for 19 of the Buccaneers’ 21 points. Though she would finish as Frankfort’s leading scorer, Abby Beeman was held to just two points in the opening period. In addition, Frankfort was plagued with some early foul troubles.
In the second period Frankfort turned the tables on the Buckhannon-Upshur. The Falcons limited the Buccaneers to only four second period points while netting 13 for themselves. The Falcons chipped away at the Buccaneers’ eight point lead and ultimately tied the game with under one minute to play in the first half. After a travelling call on the Bucs’ Gaudet with 16 seconds remaining, Frankfort gained possession and Beeman would be fouled with 7 seconds remaining. With the score tied at 21, Beeman would sink one of two free throws to give Frankfort the 26-25 halftime lead.
At the half, Frankfort’s leading scorers were Abby Beeman with eight points, Makenna Douthitt added seven and Ashley Phillips three. Top scorers for the Bucs were Alli Robinson who led all scorers with 12 points, Audrey Gaudet contributed nine, and Shelby McDaniels three.
By the end of three periods of play, the game was all tied up at 40. Buckhannon-Upshur and Frankfort would exchange runs of seven points in the third period. First, the Bucs gained a 32-26 advantage, then it was the Falcons’ turn to take the lead back at 33-32. The two would trade baskets back and forth through the remainder of the period. Despite the Buccaneers amping up the intensity of their half court press, Frankfort weathered the storm resulting in the score being tied at 40 apiece at the end of three.
In the fourth period, the Buccaneers’ Alli Robinson would start the scoring on a free throw giving Buckhannon-Upshur the 41-40 advantage. Audrey Gaudet would extend the Bucs’ lead to 42-40 with a free throw of her own. With 4:32 to go in the game, Makenna Douthitt would hit a three pointer to bring the Falcons back into the lead at 43-42. Abby Beeman would then extend the Frankfort lead to four (46-42) with 2:32 remaining on a clutch three pointer.
Shelby McDaniels would bring the Bucs to within two at the 1:40 mark (46-44). Brooklyn Maxwell would then tie the game at 46 with 1:20 to go. Frankfort freshman Marie Perdew would immediately respond and put the Falcons up 48-46. At the 48 second mark, another freshman, this time Buckhannon-Upsher’s Shelby McDaniels, would tie the game again at 48 points apiece. Alli Robinson would put the Buccaneers back on top for the last time with 28 seconds to go, making a foul shot giving the Bucs the 49-48 lead. It was then that Beeman would hit the long three pointer at the buzzer to win the game for the Falcons, with the final score being 51-49 Frankfort.
Beeman would lead the Lady Falcons with 17 points, four rebounds, one blocked shot, two steals and seven assists. Freshman Marie Perdew would finish second in scoring with 13 points and add five rebounds, followed by Makenna Douthitt’s 12 points, 10 rebounds and three steals. Ashley Phillips would contribute three points and two rebounds and Izzy Layton two points, two rebounds and one steal. Finally Macie Miller’s two points and one rebound along with Haley Malone’s two points, one rebound, one block and one steal would close out all statistics.
Coach Mike Miller couldn’t say enough about the play of his team, and lauded praise on Abby Beeman for her play and particularly for hitting the game winning shot. “Neither team could pull away from one another but we found ourselves with one final opportunity and I’m sure we all knew who was going to take the last shot? That girl reminds me of Kobe Bryant! She has ice water in her veins! She wants the ball in those situations and she lives for that moment,” an elated Miller exclaimed. Miller continued, “We played together well as a team and the overall effort was definitely there. Up next, we have the defending area champions Southern to deal with and nothing gets easier for us. We are looking forward to this opportunity as well!”
Frankfort returns to Short Gap to prepare for their home opener against Southern Thursday, Dec. 7. The Falcons then head back to North Central West Virginia on Saturday to take on North Marion.