Offense sells tickets, defense wins championships is an axiom that coaches of every age group in every sport use to try to stress the importance of defense to their teams.
However, West Carter coach Bart Stevens has his own shorter version of the common saying.
Simply, “defense wins tournaments.”
While the Lady Comets haven’t claimed the 16th Region All “A” Classic championship trophy just yet, their 30-25 victory over Bath County does give them an opportunity to play for it.
West Carter (6-9) will take on Elliott County in the championship game tonight at 6 at Raceland High School.
“Our defense won the game,” Stevens said. “I kept telling them that defense wins tournaments. Defense always wins tournaments.”
West Carter’s defensive strategy was simple, keep the ball out of freshman Sarah Price’s hands. The Lady Comets packed it in around the talented 6-foot-1 forward, forcing Bath County to try and beat them from the outside.
“We said that we wanted to keep the ball out of Price’s hands,” Stevens said. “We doubled down on her about every time she got it. Megan Centers did an excellent job on her singly. She really controlled her and kept her out of the paint.”
Centers scored just four points, but played excellent defense and secured a team-high 11 rebounds.
Price finished with six points, but only one made one field goal. She did contribute 11 rebounds.
With the focus of West Carter defense on the paint, the Lady Cats had plenty of open looks from the perimeter, but were simply unable to find their range. They finished a dismal 1-of-21 from behind the 3-point line.
“We were 8-of-39 from the field, that is not going to win you many ball games,” Bath County coach Troy Lee Thomas said. “We couldn’t buy one tonight.”
Amber Martin hit the Lady Cats’ lone 3-pointer with 2:32 remaining in the third quarter.
“We were just too uptight and too nervous,” Thomas said. “I kept telling them you can’t play nervous or it is going to affect you, which it did.”
West Carter also only connected on one 3-point field goal, but theirs happened to come at the perfect time.
Merely seconds after Bath County (9-6) took a one-point lead on Taylor Rogers’ free throw, Brooke Callihan found Brooke Adkins on the left wing for a wide-open look. The basket gave the Lady Comets a two-point advantage at 26-24 with 1:45 remaining.
That lead would be cut to one with just over 15 seconds on the clock, when Morgan Howard made the first of two free throw attempts. Her second attempt came up short and ended up in the arms of sixth-grader Morgan Berry.
Berry, who had just missed the front end of the bonus 30 seconds before, calmly stepped to the line and sank both of her attempts.
“We just made the plays we needed to down the stretch, and made big shots when we had to have them,” Stevens said. “Berry, she is just a sixth-grader, to step up there with that type of pressure was unbelievable.”
One last 3-point shot by Bath County was off the mark. Callihan sealed the West Carter victory with two more shots from the charity stripe. The senior finished with a game-high 10 points.
Rogers led the way for Bath County with nine.
BATH COUNTY 6 4 7 8 — 25
WEST CARTER 7 8 5 10 — 30
Bath County (25) — Rogers 9, Price 6, Porter 6, Martin 3, Howard 1, Sparks, Jamison. FT: 8-12. 3-point FGs: 1-21 (Martin). PF: 16. Fouled out: Sparks. Turnovers: 15.
West Carter (30) — Adkins 5, Ziegler 3, Callihan 10, L. Berry 5, Centers 4, M. Berry 3, B. Easterling. FT: 11-22. 3-point FGs: 1-9 (Adkins). PF: 15. Fouled out: none. Turnovers: 13.