HHS defeats Midland
ONA -- The Huntington High girls basketball team might not play in front of a more hostile crowd all year.
Tuesday, the Highlanders (15-3) played their annual day game with rival Cabell Midland (10-5), in Midland's gym, where every student at the school was in attendance.
But Class AAA No. 4 Huntington High didn't seem too rattled, taking a 69-55 victory over the Knights.
"This is a good experience to play in front of a crowd like this," said Highlanders head coach Lonnie Lucas. "I actually love it. They're all screaming, but I don't hear a thing."
The game was nip and tuck for a long while, though the collective audience might have gotten the sense things were going to go Huntington High's way when Kiana Evans banked in a long 3-pointer at the halftime buzzer, giving the Highlanders a 35-31 lead.
The contest remained tight in the third quarter, though Huntington High threatened to break out a couple of times as Highlander guards Dazha Congleton and Alexis Williams started to realize they could drive around their defenders for easy baskets. With 90 seconds to go in the quarter, Cabell Midland's Emily Harden, who had given the Knights six points off the bench, fouled out.
Still, Cabell Midland was in the contest at the end of the third, trailing 50-45.
But the Highlanders started the fourth quarter on a 7-0 run, putting Cabell Midland down by 12, and the Knights didn't get close again.
Cabell Midland had a tough time shutting down Highlanders freshman Lacy Johnson, who came off the bench to score 21 points, including five 3-pointers. Johnson had at least one three in each of the four quarters.
Another major problem for the Knights was their lack of production in the post. Emily Pitkin and Sierra Jordan typically dominate down low, but Pitkin never really got on track, scoring only four points, and Jordan, who had 13, found most of her shots from around the elbow.
The Knights were able to contain the Highlanders down low. Pitkin erased more than a few shots, and Huntington High's Dominique Gibson only managed two points, both from the free throw line, while picking up four fouls.
Cabell Midland also got some clutch threes from Alex Ellis and Stephanie Bias.
Just where things went wrong was a bit of a puzzler for Knights coach Matt Adkins.
"I don't know if the big crowd had an impact with nervousness," Adkins said. "But they have to put that out of their minds and play."
The Knights have dropped two straight, both to sectional foes in Huntington High and Spring Valley. Adkins said where the team goes from here depends a lot on mental toughness.
"I think we'll be OK," Adkins said. "We've got some veterans who are leaders that we can depend on.
"I'm not upset, I'm a little discouraged. I didn't want this game for myself, I wanted it for the girls so they would start believing in themselves again, because we've got a good team and they can play. I think this is a state tournament team."
HUNTINGTON HIGH 14 21 15 19 -- 69: Johnson 21, Evans 22, Congleton 10, Budd 7, Williams 7, Gibson 2.
CABELL MIDLAND 15 16 14 10 -- 55: Bias 12, Jordan 13, Ellis 8, Harden 6, Jarrell 4, Pitkin 4, Alderman 6, Haggerty 2.