Lady Falcons punch ticket to Charleston

Chapin Jewell
Special to the News Tribune
The Lady Falcons pose with their Regional Co-Final trophy after defeating Trinity Christian on Thursday.
Frankfort's Halley Smith drives to the basket for her first bucket of the game.  Smith led all scorers with 20 points Thursday.

SHORT GAP - With the winning ways of the Frankfort Lady Falcons’ basketball program, the expectation, not just the desire, is a trip to Charleston for the state basketball tournament. On Thursday, after a hard-fought battle on the road at Trinity Christian, Frankfort has once again punched their ticket to the state tournament with a 60-48 victory.

“I’m proud of this team for a lot of reasons.  A couple years ago we lost Abby (Beeman), and everybody said we weren’t going to make it back to Charleston.  We went back with a vengeance, we came back and only lost one game in the regular season to North Marion, then lost to a tough Fairmont Senior team.  But, I thought we had a better all-around team last year,” Frankfort coach Mike Miller stated.

“After our heavy senior laden team left last year, once again, people said ‘Mike you’re not going to win, you may as well just give it up and stuff like that.’  No, this group of girls, they still play with a lot of heart, they’re competitive, they’re young, we have a good mix, and we still have a lot to speak for come next week in Charleston.”

The ticket to Charleston was not an easy one to punch, at least it certainly seemed that way early.  After Frankfort’s Halley Smith scored the first bucket of the game, Trinity Christian caught fire, scoring the next seven points.  Along the way the homestanding Lady Warriors hit five three-pointers in the first half and limited Frankfort star Marié Perdew to just three points in the first and second periods.

The result?  Trinity Christian took a 14-10 advantage at the end of the first period and then a 26-22 lead over Frankfort at halftime.  

The second half, however, was a different story.  The Falcons wasted little time claiming the lead  as Perdew hit a three-pointer just 1:18 into the third period for the 27-26 Falcon edge.  From there, Frankfort never looked back.  A 24-point explosion in the third period lifted them to a 46-37 advantage entering the fourth and final frame.  A 14-11 edge in the final stanza secured the 60-48 victory.

“Well, in the first half, it was back and forth.  We knew Trinity was going to come out with a lot of emotion and a lot of heart.  We figured if we could weather the storm, we knew they were going to shoot some threes, we didn’t think they would be as successful as they were, but credit to them for making their shots.  They put a lot of pressure on us,” Miller stated.

Then came the adjustments at halftime.  Adjustments coupled with spirited play that would make the second and deciding half a totally different story in favor of Frankfort.

 “We went in and made a couple of adjustments at halftime, ramped up our defense a little bit.  We came out and ran a couple different looks that they hadn’t seen before, and it got us some open looks, some shots down low.  It got us moving a little bit, and to me, we wore them down in the second half, and that to me was the difference in the game,” Miller explained.

Other than the adjustments, the keys to victory?

“Just staying the course, not getting carried away, not getting excited.  The girls have played in these games before.  It was just staying confident, they were playing within themselves, playing with each other, looking for each other a little bit more,” explained Miller.

“We did relax heavily on Marié, unfortunately her shot wasn’t on tonight, so we had to distribute the ball and get it to somebody that was making them, and that ended up being several different girls that stepped up.  And that’s it, we just stayed the course and got everybody involved,” Miller explained.

The Frankfort win was keyed by three players scoring in double figures.  Halley Smith led the way with 20 points, Marié Perdew was second with 17 points, 14 of which came in the second half.  Larae Grove played big, tallying 14 points.  Due to their rebounding efforts, Smith and Grove also had double-double performances.  Izzy Layton added seven points and Arin Lease two points.

“There’s no doubt that Halley Smith is the heart and soul of our team defensively, and it was great getting her back in practice, and great to see her perform well tonight, because without her, we don’t go anywhere, it’s that simple,” Miller stated.  “We need her playing lights out defense and shutting the other team’s best player down.  Just her effort gets everyone else going, yes, it was great having her back.”

“They did a good job of containing Marié with people stepping out and watching her outside while somebody was watching her down low.  They were kind of shadowing her a little bit.  We stuck to our offenses in the second half.  We didn’t run much of a set offense in the first half, we kind of were letting the girls read and react off of what they were doing and it didn’t work to the best of our abilities,” Miller stated.

“So, we stuck with a couple plays that we put in that we knew Trinity hadn’t seen yet, and that got her loosened up a little bit and got her to the basket a little bit.  She gets fouled a lot, and she makes her foul shots, and that was a credit to her hard work and sticking with it and staying the course,” Miller said of Perdew.

In the loss, Trinity Christian was led in double figures by Jac Smith with 12 points.  Next Maggie Mercure tallied nine points, and Jenna Barnett and Ruby Smith-McRobie eight points apiece.

Frankfort (15-3) has secured the fourth seed in the WV class AA state tournament and will take on Williamstown (16-3) on Tuesday at 11:15 a.m.  Williamstown advanced with a 51-48 victory over St. Marys.

 “I hope they count us out, we’re expecting that, but we like being the underdog,” Miller stated.  “These girls, they’ve played in big games before, and we’ll just see where we are come the end of the week.”