Wyoming East wanted to make a statement.
The Class AA powerhouse is unbeaten in its own ranks, but still dropped out of the No. 1 spot in this week’s AP poll in favor of North Marion because of recent losses to Class AAA No. 2 Parkersburg and Class A No. 1 St. Joseph.
So what would be better than a revenge win against Parkersburg — the third-largest school in the state —in a first-round Big Atlantic Classic game Wednesday night?
Unlike the earlier game, won 69-51 by the big Reds, Wyoming East did not fade in the middle quarters. The Lady Warriors took the lead for keeps, 24-22 on a Jazz Blankenship 3, and managed to hold off Parkersburg the rest of the way for a 62-54 victory at the Beckley-Raleigh County Convention Center.
"The kids love a challenge, and you only get better playing better teams," coach Angie Boninsegna said. "Our goal was to play better all-around, and we did."
Blankenship, a junior guard, and senior forward Kara Sandy each scored 18 points in the win. Blankenship was 5 of 10 from the 3-point line while Sandy, back fully from 2 seasons of illness and injury, shared team rebounding honors with Allie Lusk with six apiece.
Senior point guard and state player of the year candidate Gabby Lupardus had 10 point and eight assists.
Parkersburg (11-3) was coming off a 63-45 loss Monday to arch rival Parkersburg South.
The Big Reds had trailed Wyoming East 17-11 after one quarter in Parkersburg. They proceeded to outscore the Lady Warriors by a combined 40-13 in the middle quarters for the victory.
Two weeks later, Wyoming East again led early, 17-12 after one period on two 3s by Blankenship.
And like last time, Parkersburg came back to lead in the second period, 18-17 on a Maddi Leggett jumper at the 5:01 mark.
"It was eerily the same," Boninsegna said. "Emily (Saunders) picked up two fouls even quicker."
But then the script changed.
Madi Mace added two point to the Big Reds’ lead at the foul line. Sandy and Mace traded layups.
Sandy made a swift cut the basket to make it a one-point game before Blankenship hit the 3 for the lead.
"We kept leaving Blankenship open, even though we'd been talking about it all week and in timeouts," Big Reds coach Scott Cozzens said. "She had at least three or four wide-open 3s. Those are hard to make up."
Wyoming East led 31-25 at the half, aided by two late baskets from subs Katie Daniels and Brooke Russell.
The lead reached 10 early in the third quarter, but PHS refused to fold. The Big Reds caught fire and a drive by Shaylee Kirby made it 40-39 with under two minutes remaining in the period.
Wyoming East responded. Six-foot-five junior center Saunders, who played sparingly in the first half, scored from inside. Lusk sank two free throws. Sandy opened the fourth quarter with a jumper and two foul shots and Lusk made a stickback to finish a 10-0 run.
"Kara (a 6-footer) handles the ball so well, she is such a mismatch on the floor. She didn't play against St. Joe's, but we get them again (Feb. 9 in New Richmond)."
The Lady Warriors got a couple of shot blocks from Saunders and hit 5 of 6 foul shots down the stretch to finish the job.
Aleea Crites and Shaylee Kirby led Parkersburg with 13 points apiece. Leggett had 12 and all-stater Madi Mace was held to five points. Another standout, Bri Wilson, fouled out with seven points.
"When Bree picked up her fourth foul that really hurt us," Cozzens said. "She was really playing well in that stretch."
With both teams having an open date on the schedule, Cozzens wouldn't mind playing Wyoming East again.
"I wish we could play them every night. It was a good, clean, game, well played and well coached," he said. "The kids like playing good teams. I never like to lose, but our sophomores did pretty good with them."
Wyoming East (11-2) will play in the first of the two tournament championship games at 5:40 p.m. Saturday against the winner of today’s George Washington-St. Albans game. Parkersburg will play the GW-SA loser at 2 p.m. Friday in a consolation game.
Maddi Leggett 5-9 0-0 12, Aleea Crites 3-6 6-8 13, Shaylee Kirby 3-7 7-8 13, Bri Wilson 2-6 2-2 7, Madi Mace 1-8 3-4 5, Bri Wilson 2-6 2-2 7, Madi Mace 1-8 3-4 5, Addison Watkins 0-0 0-0 0, Emily Kupfner 0-0 0-1 0, Tavien Clark 0-2 0-2 0, Maggie Richards 2-3 0-0 4. Totals: 16-41 18-25 54.
Kara Sandy 7-10 4-4 18, Jazz Blankenship 5-12 3-5 18, Emily Saunders 3-7 1-2 7, Gabby Lupardus 3-6 4-4 10, Allie Lusk 1-2 2-2 4, Misa Quesenberry 0-0 1-1 1, Katie Daniels 1-5 0-2, Kelsey Green 0-0 0-0 0, Brooke Russell 1-1 0-0 0. Totals: 21-43 15-21 62.
P (11-3): 12 13 14 15 — 54
WE (11-2): 17 14 13 18 — 62
3-point goals: P 4-16 (Leggett 2-4 Crites 1-2, Kirby 0-3, Wilson 1-4, Mace 0-2, Clark 0-1), WE 5-12 (Blankenship 5-10, Lupardus 0-1, Daniels 0-1). Fouled out: P (Wilson).