WILLIAMSTOWN — Brand new to the field, Gilmer County gave the Donnie Fenton Shootout exactly what the two-day girls baksetball tournament anticipated from a club with such lofty goals.
After dominating Class A’s No. 2 ranked Cameron for a 33-point win in Friday’s semifinals, the sixth-rtanked Titans met Marietta for Saturday’s championship game and set the tone from the outset for a 78-42 win.
Gilmer County reeled off the first eight points of the game and led by as many as 21 points in the first half. Three Titans scored in double figures, including Malaysia Morgan with 19 points, Trinity Bancroft with 17 and Emma Taylor with 15.
Gilmer County (5-0) starts five seniors who have played together since they were in elementary school.
“We know what everyone else is going to do on the court, so the chemistry is really good,” Taylor said. “It’s been that way all four years we have played together in high school, and this year it is really showing.
“Defeating Cameron was a goal for us and a big statement game. With them being state runner-up, that was a really big deal and kind of proves where we are at.”
For a large portion of the second half, Marietta showed signs of figuring out Gilmer County’s full-court pressure and stayed on even terms before the Titans strung together a 15-3 run which put the game out of reach at 57-27 with less than a minute remaining in the third quarter.
Gilmer County forced 17 turnovers in the first half compared to six in the second half.
Leigha Lauer led the Tigers (4-4) with 14 points, while Julie Tucker came off the bench to contribute another nine points.
“I could not be more proud of the way our young girls fought,” Marietta coach Allen Ruth said. “That is a very experienced Gilmer County team which is looking to get back to Charleston. I say you will see them back in the state’s capitol (for the state tournament).
“The takeaway for us is the experience of playing against a seasoned team like that which is good at what they do. Figuring out how to break their press will be valuable for us.”
Other than a few too many hiccups taking care of the basketball, Gilmer County coach Amy Chapman was encouraged about her girls’ performance during the two-day event. The Titans committed 12 turnovers after halftime, yet still managed to score 38 points during that span.
“Marietta got after us until the end, and we needed that,” Chapman said. “We just didn’t handle the pressure as well as I would have liked.
“I’m very glad we got to come to this tournament. We got a chance to see Cameron and see a team like Marietta that will get after you. My girls are gaining some momentum, along with confidence and experience.”
As for the third-place game, not often Williamstown finishes 0-2 in its own tournament. However, that’s exactly what happened after Cameron defeated the Yellowjackets, 65-55.
Williamstown (0-2) trailed 46-37 in the final minute of the third quarter then overtook Cameron with a 10-0 run, which was ignited by a Riley Landis bucket followed by consecutive 3-pointers from Olivia Rinard and Lakyn Joy.
Another Landis basket at the 7:16 mark of the fourth quarter put the Yellowjackets in front (47-46) for the first time since the last two of minutes of the first quarter.
Williamstown switched to a triangle-and-2 after falling behind 36-22 at halftime, and the move paid off until Cameron exploited a few breakdowns with an Emilee Dobbs 3-pointer and Ashlynn VanTassel’s putback as part of a 7-0 spurt which put the Dragons ahead to stay at 53-47.
At the four-minute mark, Williamstown remained in a good spot down 55-53 before Cameron (4-1) closed out the victory with a 10-0 run.
“We’ve worked on that triangle defense maybe five minutes this year,” Williamstown coach Fred Sauro said. “We just had a hard time stopping (VanTassel).”
After scoring 18 points in a semifinal loss to Gilmer County, VanTassel dominated the interior with a game-high 31 points. Teammate Macy Neely came off the bench for another 17 points.
“(VanTassell) is just a really good player,” Sauro said. “It seemed like when we doubled her, we were better. But when we singled up, she used her body real well.”
Following a 17-point performance off the bench in the semifinals, Landis earned a starting nod and responded with 13 points. The Yellowjackets also received 10 points apiece from Lakyn Joy and Georgie Inman.
“We grew a little bit from last night to today,” Sauro said. “We executed better today. We’re glad we played this type of competition over the weekend. We’ve been 0-2 before in the Shootout, and one of those years we made it to the state semifinals. One year, Sissonville came here and was 0-2, and won the state championship. So this tournament is tough.”