NEW CUMBERLAND - The Oak Glen girls' basketball team is going back to Charleston.
On the strength of Thursday's 54-46 victory against visiting Point Pleasant, the Golden Bears earned the West Virginia Class AA Region One championship and are headed south to the state tournament for the third time in four years.
''This was our goal to get down there,'' Payden Eckleberry, the starting point guard for Oak Glen's previous two trips to Charleston, said. ''This year we don't just want to get down there and lose in the first round. We want to win. We want to do good and we can.''
Payden Eckleberry moves with the ball during Thursday’s Regional Co-Final.
Photo by Fred Younce
The main forces behind the Oak Glen charge were Eckleberry and junior Vanessa Hissam. The Knights had no answer defensively for the Golden Bears' one-two punch as Hissam scored a game-high 22 points and Eckleberry followed with 21.
The home team started fast, scoring the game's first six points with buckets by Amy Webster, Hissam, and Eckleberry. Point Pleasant fired right back with a 10-0 run consisting of 3-point buckets by Katie Bruner and Sarah Hussell sandwiching an Andrea Porter inside basket.
Those three proved to be the Knights' offense all evening as Porter scored 19, with Bruner and Hussell each scoring 12. When the dust of the opening stanza settled the Golden Bears led 14-13 after an Eckleberry 3 with 49 seconds left gave them the lead back.
''They came up to play,'' Oak Glen coach Scott Wiley said. ''Point Pleasant did a nice job, but the girls are on a mission. I really do believe that. These last few games they've been ready to go.
''It was a good game the whole way around.''
The Knights took the lead back at 18-17 on a Bruner bucket with 5:32 left in the second quarter, but Oak Glen outscored them 7-2 the rest of the way to hold a 24-20 lead at halftime. An Eckleberry basket with 4:47 gave the Golden Bears a 19-18 advantage and they never trailed again.
The Golden Bears' lead was stretched to double-digits on multiple occasions in the third quarter before finally settling at nine with the score 41-32 heading into the final quarter. Hissam and Eckleberry combined for 15 of their team's 17 points in the quarter with eight and seven respectively.
''It's a big game,'' Wiley said. ''As much as you say it's not a big game and you try to keep them relaxed but things still happen. Your shots are tight. You're still a little bit nervous.
''I told them at halftime we're in good shape. Just relax and do what we need to do to come out in the second half. The third quarter is always a big quarter. We always preach to them the third quarter is a big quarter so we just told them to maintain what they were doing.
''They weren't doing anything crazy or anything so we just played our game and it worked out.''
Things were never in question in the fourth quarter. Oak Glen scored the first four points, pushing the lead to 13, and Point Pleasant was unable to get the score within single-digits until less than a minute left. Oak Glen successfully ran down the clock, secured a victory, and punched its ticket to Charleston.
''We'll just try to keep it one game at a time,'' Wiley said. ''We try to tell them you can't win the championship in one game. It takes six games and we have three down so we have to get three more. It's just going to be one step, one game at a time thing.
''It gets tougher each game. This was a little bit tougher and when we go down there it's going to be the top-eight teams so it's going to be a tough one. Play by play, quarter by quarter, whatever we can do.''