RICHMOND — Out of sync from the opening tip, Wise Central’s girls basketball team fell to defensive-minded Clarke County in Saturday’s VHSL Class 2 championship game at VCU’s Siegel Center.
The Lady Eagles won 45-41 to claim their first state championship since 2007. The loss ended the Lady Warriors' six-game winning streak on the state’s biggest stage.
“It was a very hard-fought game and (Clarke County) did the things they needed to do to win the ballgame,” Central coach Robin Dotson said. “We never could get in sync. We battled back and got the lead. They made free throws and hit some big shots.
"We’re broken-hearted, but I’m very proud of my kids.”
Central led 31-30 with 4:28 left in the game, but a huge 3-pointer by Clarke County’s Selene Good with 2:46 on the clock gave the Berryville squad the lead for good.
Good, Kaiya Williams and Hailey Evans scored 11 points each to lead Clarke County (25-5). Alainah McKavish, the team's usual leading scorer, was held to one point and fouled out midway through the fourth quarter.
“It was frustrating to keep Alainah in foul trouble,” Clarke County coach Regina Downing said. “We’ve preached all year long that it is a next-man-up mentality. These kids stuck together even though we weren’t able to run our offense like we wanted.”
The Lady Eagles were clutch at the free-throw line down the stretch, going 11-for-13. That proved key in holding off Central's late rally via a barrage of long-range shots.
“There’s no quit in this team,” Dotson said. “They were hitting free throws when we were having to foul late. They got a run-out layup to extend the lead and they made plays down the stretch.”
Star sophomore guard Emmah McAmis — still dealing with an ankle injury she suffered in Central's state quarterfinal win over Floyd County last Friday — finished with a double-double of 17 points and 11 rebounds. Abbie Jordan also netted double figures in scoring with 12.
The Lady Warriors' offense was obviously hampered by McAmis’ injury, but they still managed to take the lead after falling behind early.
“(McAmis’) mobility was limited and I appreciate her playing,” Dotson said. “I’m not sure too many athletes could’ve attempted that. I didn’t think her mobility was any better tonight than it was on Monday.”
“(McAmis) is a good player and for her to play through that injury shows how much she loves the game,” Downing said. “It was good to see her out there and still grinding through the pain.”
The Lady Warriors (25-7) trailed the entire first half but seized a 26-25 lead with 3:34 left in the third quarter on a pair of McAmis free throws.
Clarke County built as much as a seven-point lead, 39-32, with 50 seconds left before Jordan hit a 3-pointer to cut it to four.
Keira Rohrbach then made a pair of free throws to extend the Lady Eagles' lead to six before Jordan hit another trey.
Then with 3.4 seconds left, Rohrbach sank the game-sealing free throws to give Clarke County its first state title since the VHSL competition was still three divisions.
“Those last two minutes took an eternity,” Downing said. “I was proud of my kids because they’ve been grinding all year long and this was something that they wanted.”