CHARLESTON, W.Va. — No. 3 Gilmer County used its relentless fullcourt pressure defense to force No. 6 Wheeling Central into a Class A state tournament record 44 turnovers during Thursday’s quarterfinal.
Twenty-seven of those turnovers came after halftime, which allowed the Titans to turn a five-point deficit into a 75-63 victory at Charleston Coliseum.
“It was a tremendous amount of effort and hard work,” Titans’ coach Amy Chapman said. “They got after it today. We wanted to stick to what got us here and we did that and then some.”
Gilmer County (21-5) advances to a Friday semifinal against the winner of Parkersburg Catholic/Tucker County.
Central (14-12) played its best basketball during the second quarter when it made 8-of-14 shots from the field. Twenty-one of the Maroon Knights’ 23 points in the frame came from the trio of Hannah White, Naliah Lekanudos and Kaylee Reinbeau, turning a four-point deficit into a 35-30 halftime lead.
Although Central had 17 turnovers at halftime, the Maroon Knights helped offset them by shooting nearly 62 percent compared to the Titans making only 13-of-41 shots from the field.
Things went south in a hurry for the Maroon Knights in the third quarter though. After a Tristen White basket upped their lead to seven, Gilmer County reeled off 11 unanswered points over 3:55, with Trinity Bancroft accounting for seven of the points.
“I knew I had to come out with the mindset that scoring and defense were going to get us the game,” Bancroft said.
Bancroft added a conventional three-point play for the final points of the period, sending Gilmer into the fourth with a 52-44 lead. Eleven of the Titans’ 22 points in the quarter came off turnovers.
“That third quarter, they really blitzed us with their pressure,” Central coach Penn Kurtz said. “We couldn’t settle down and get the game under control, but I give them credit. They were all over the court and everywhere we want.”
The Titans’ lead was cut to 56-51 with 4:27 remaining, but Malaysia Morgan answered with a critical bucket inside, before Bancroft added another three-point play with 3:51 to play.
“She’s an offensive-minded kid who knows when she can go score,” Chapman said of Bancroft.
The Maroon Knights never got closer than eight the rest of the way, with the Titans scoring 12 more points off turnovers in the period to finish with 39.
Bancroft scored 35 points, while Morgan added 12 to go with a game-high eight steals. Five of the eight Titans to see action recorded at least four steals.
“We made a huge statement today,” Chapman said. “Central definitely has a reputation and they’re here almost every year. We’re young and have a bright future ahead of us.”
Hannah White led Central with 19 points and Lekanudos added 11 in defeat. Reinbeau, playing with a tweaked hamstring, had nine points and 12 rebounds in 17 minutes.
“Having Kaylee out of the game hurt us,” White said, “because she’s a big part of our team.”
Gilmer County postgame press conference