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Pinkerton, Youngblood lead Sissonville to state berth

By Terry Fletcher

SISSONVILLE, W.Va. -- The postseason oftentimes requires players to dig deep and give their all.

Sissonville sophomore guard Karli Pinkerton certainly left everything on the court as she poured in 24 points to lead the No. 5 Indians past Chapmanville Regional to win the Class AA Region 4 co-final in front of a raucous crowd at Sissonville High School Thursday night.

Sissonville (21-3) advances to the state tournament for the first time since 2009, when it reached the state semifinals.

Pinkerton, who was battling flu-like symptoms and required IV fluids before the game and at halftime, shot 8 of 16 from the floor and 7 of 10 from the free-throw line in 30 minutes of court time.

"Karli, she's a legend with me and a lot of other people around here," said Sissonville coach Rich Skeen. "It's amazing because she was sicker than a dog, she fought through it, and had a great game. And now her legend grows."

Both teams struggled early offensively, and Chapmanville took a 9-8 lead at the end of the first quarter. Junior Shian Meeks rattled off the first six points for the Tigers in the second quarter but Pinkerton kept the Indians close, scoring the first five points for her side.

Sissonville battled foul trouble in the first half, benching leading scorer senior Brittany Gould the entire second period after picking up her second foul. With the game tied at 15 with six minutes left, Chapmanville used back-to-back 3-pointers from Meeks and senior Kristen DesRocher to help build up a seven-point lead before taking a 30-25 advantage into halftime.

"Five of our top seven players are freshmen and sophomores," said Chapmanville coach David Williamson. "We told [Meeks] that we would need another scorer besides DesRocher, and she came out strong for us."

Sissonville cranked up the pressure to open the second half, using a full-court press and dropping back into a zone defense to spark an 20-7 run over the next six minutes, giving the Indians a 45-37 edge at the end of the third.

"Obviously defense in the second half was key," said Skeen. "But it was a combination of things — our defense, they went cold, they're better shooters than that. Chapmanville is a good team."

The Tigers' Lexi Martin opened up the fourth quarter with a 3-pointer but Chapmanville would not score again as Sissonville made 10 of 12 free throws over the next 4:30 to ice it. The Sissonville defense proved to be the key, holding the Tigers to 13 percent shooting and forcing 13 turnovers in the second half.

"We all played pretty good and hit shots when we needed to," said Pinkerton. "We knew they were going to play zone. We needed to make shots, and needed to stop DesRocher from driving."

DesRocher, who game into the game averaging 15.8 points, was held to just five points and Meeks finished with 11.

"They dropped to a zone defense and I've said all year long that people should play us zone," said Williamson. "We just can't shoot."

With Gould struggling to find a rhythm and sophomore Brooke Reed out with foul trouble, Sissonville received a big performance from sophomore senior Mariah Youngblood. Youngblood finished with 10 points, six rebounds and two steals, all while anchoring the Indians' defense underneath.

"Mariah really stepped up," said Skeen. "She's really worked hard this off-season, and it hadn't really showed with points and things like that, but maybe she was saving them for tonight because tonight was the game of her life and it was huge for us."

Chapmanville finishes at 14-10.


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