CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Third-seeded Nicholas County grabbed the lead in the game's last three minutes and sank clutch free throws down the stretch to seal a 47-42 victory over North Marion in Thursday's Class AA quarterfinal of the girls state tournament at the Civic Center.
Nicholas County trailed 40-37 when North Marion's Taylor Wells drove for a layup, barreled into Nicholas' Lauren Young and was called for charging. The Grizzlies' Makayla Willis promptly buried a wide-open 3-pointer to tie the game, and Nicole Hamilton's subsequent15-footer from the corner gave Nicholas a 42-40 lead with 2:57 remaining. North Marion never recovered.
Huskies coach Michael Parrish believes Wells' charge snatched momentum from his team and handed it squarely to Nicholas County.
"It was a big five-point swing," he said. "And in a close game like that it's a thing that can really turn the tide of the game."
Grizzlies coach Tom McGirl said Young's heady play didn't surprise him.
"Lauren probably takes two [charges] a night," he said. "You'd think it would be in somebody's scouting report to pull up and shoot the jumper, but people continue to do it and she keeps taking them."
The game was tight throughout. Freshman Megan Haller scored nine of North Marion's first 11 points as the Huskies built a five-point second-quarter lead, but two 3-pointers by Young pulled the Grizzlies even, 20-20, at halftime.
Neither team could gain much advantage in the third or fourth periods. From halftime until less than a minute remained in the game, neither squad led by more than three points.
North Marion center Anna Marie Moscufo fouled out with 3:30 remaining in the fourth quarter, and after that the Huskies' shot selection seemed to go south. Haller and fellow guard Chelsea Swiger each missed ill-advised 3-point attempts, and Audia Bartlett missed a jumper in heavy traffic.
North Marion had to foul to try to get the ball back, but Young and center Shealyn Shafer sank 5 of 6 free throws in the game's final 1:08 to ice the victory for Nicholas County.
Shafer, the Grizzlies' all-time leading scorer, scored 16 points, yanked down 15 rebounds, blocked six shots and made two steals. Young, who had 10 points and 10 rebounds, was Nicholas County's only other double-figure scorer.
Haller's 17 points led North Marion. Moscufo and Bartlett added 10 apiece for the Huskies, who finished their season 18-5.
Nicholas County will face second-seeded Bridgeport in today's 11:15 a.m. Class AA semifinal. The Indians breezed past Lincoln 54-34 in their Thursday quarterfinal matchup.
Reach John McCoy at johnmc...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1231.