CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- And a child shall lead them.
With two key seniors fouled out and on the bench, a freshman helped third-seeded St. Marys rally from a five-point fourth-quarter deficit and grab an improbable 45-43 victory over second-seeded Wheeling Central in the girls Class A state semifinals Friday morning at the Civic Center.
Most observers figured the game was over when the Blue Devils' leading scorer, Audra Clark, picked up her fifth foul with 5:40 remaining. Central led 31-27 at the time, and Clark had been the Blue Devils' only reliable point producer until then.
But with Clark out, freshman guard Ashley Hall and 6-foot-4 junior center Kendra Walker stepped up big.
Walker drew the Devils within a basket when she hit a layup in heavy traffic, senior guard Dani Moore tied the game seconds later with a steal and a short jumper and, on the next St. Marys possession, Hall swished a 12-foot baseline jumper that gave the Devils their first lead since early in the third period.
But then Moore, the Devils' most reliable ball-handler, fouled out.
Central reclaimed the lead with 1:39 remaining on two free throws by guard Emily Bucon, but Walker's stick-back at the 1:18 mark knotted the score at 39-39.
After Central's Beth Stayduhar missed a 3-point attempt from the left sideline, Walker again got loose inside and gave the Devils a 41-39 advantage.
The Knights' Colleen McCormick then missed another 3-point attempt, and Central was forced to foul to get the ball back. They fouled Hall, and the freshman stepped to the line and buried both ends of a one-and-one with 28 seconds remaining.
Bucon cut the lead to 43-41 when she slashed in from the right wing for a layup, but once again the Knights were forced to foul Hall.