BECKLEY, W.Va. - Falling behind 14-1 at the outset didn't kill St. Albans. Going the last 10 minutes of regulation without a field goal didn't slay the Red Dragons, either.
What ultimately led to their demise were an untimely foul late in the fourth quarter and sort of going into a shell on offense, allowing state-ranked University to escape with a 46-43 overtime victory in a girls co-championship game during the Big Atlantic Classic at the Beckley-Raleigh County Convention Center.
The No. 4 Hawks (13-2) got a tie-breaking 3-pointer by Shae Chico with 3:07 left in OT to finally take control and fend off unranked SA (11-3).
"They're a very smart group,'' Hawks coach Kamela Meikle said of her team. "They don't need yelled at. They don't need much encouragement. If I just redirect them, tell them, 'Girls, this is why it's slipping away from us,' they're such an intellectual group they will get a grip on what they need to do and adjust.''
St. Albans recovered from its awful start and held a 37-31 lead heading into the fourth quarter. The Dragons were still up 41-38 when Breanna Propst made two clutch free throws with 22 seconds left, but the Hawks had a little magic of their own.
University misfired on a pair of 3-point tries, and the ball bounced to Anna Cunningham in the foul lane. She put up a twisting, sprawling shot that dropped and SA was whistled for a foul that put Cunningham at the line for a three-point play with six seconds to go. She made it to force OT.
"We fouled that girl with six seconds and we were up three,'' said SA coach Scott James. "Let her shoot the ball. The clock keeps running, we get the ball and they have to foul us. It's a learning situation for our girls. We'll learn from this and move on.''
SA tied the score once in the extra period at 43, again on two free throws by Propst (12 points, 13 rebounds). That set the stage for the tie-breaking 3 by Chico, who led the Hawks with 10 points.
The Red Dragons actually went the final 14 minutes of the game without a field goal, with Propst's six free throws the team's only points.
Protecting a slim lead the entire fourth quarter, St. Albans went into a weaving offense to run off time and perhaps entice a foul from University, but the strategy also served to stagnate the Dragons' attack. When it came time to look to the basket again, SA wasn't as sharp as it had been.
"It did [hurt us], it really did,'' James said. "We ran two offenses - one was shoot nothing but lay-ups and one was four out and one in. Our girls were really timid there. We were [supposed to be] looking for that opportunity to attack a crease or take a shot from the perimeter, but again we were timid.