NEW RICHMOND —
Summers County went into Thursday night's game knowing that if they had any chance to beat Westside, they were going to have to eliminate All-Stater Hope Lester from the equation.
That was when the Renegades added another variable.
Westside senior Danielle Brown scorched the nets, scoring 20 points to help carry the Lady Renegades to a fifth sectional championship, knocking off the nine-time state champion Lady Bobcats 57-45.
Brown also took home tournament MVP honors for her effort.
To say the game started slow would be an understatement, but that was just the way Summers County coach Wayne Ryan had drawn it up. The Lady Bobcats received the first possession of the game, holding the ball for the first two and a half minutes before freshman Brittney Justice drove the lane and drew a foul.
Ryan's plan was to draw the larger Westside opponent out of zone defense and into man-to-man, the same defensive scheme that the Lady Renegades used when they fell to Summers during the regular season.
While it came as a surprise to many of the Renegade faithful in attendance, who showered the Lady Bobcats with boring chants, it wasn't a shock to Westside coach Jamie Lusk.
"We expected it," he said. "He had done it to us before. It wasn't the first time. He did it to us two years ago when we won the state championship. That's smart. It's a good game plan. he wanted to bring us out of the zone and go man and we did. We went man long enough to get the lead but after that we got pretty comfortable.
With Summers County leading late in the first quarter, Brown knocked down a pair of 3-pointers and gave the Lady Renegades a 6-5 lead.
It would be the last time the Lady Bobcats lead the entire contest.
"I knew I was going to be on fire when I made those two," she said. "I knew it was going to be a good night."
Luckily for Westside, it was a good night for Brown, who lost Lester for much of the second quarter and part of the third quarter due to foul trouble.
With Westside's biggest weapon playing the role of cheerleader, substitutes Kristin Hash and Mackenzie Endicott came into the game and used their size in Lester's absence to dominate the paint, allowing Brown and fellow senior Faith Davis to take over.
"I had confidence in my team," Lester said. "I know I'm not the only player on the team or on the court. My teammates would do something good and I was up cheering for them and giving them the best confidence I could."
Lusk used his team's experience in the state championship game as motivation for his team to play through adversity and seize the moment during the big game.
That exactly what Brown did.
"Danielle's always been a big play player for us," Lusk said. "She's an extremely good shooter. The teams have to respect her. If they leave her open, she's confident enough to step up and make those shots for us. She's a very experienced senior who has played in a lot of huge games. I've told them they've played in two state championship games in the last two years. That's a lot of big game experience. I expect our girls to step up and make those shots. Danielle did a good job doing that for us."
Despite losing the sectional championship game, the Bobcats will still get a chance to make it to Charleston. They'll take on Bluefield in the Region 3 co-championship next Thursday. The Lady Beavers upset PikeView 47-43 in the Region 3, Section 2 Championship. The Lady Panthers will now make the long trip to Clear Fork to take on the hot Lady Renegades.
"Westside is a very good team. We're pretty darn good, too," Ryan said. "I thought both teams really battled. Danielle Brown really punished us. Give them credit, they hit shots down the stretch. Our girls didn't quit and we live to fight again."
At Wyoming East High School
SUMMERS COUNTY (57)
Avery Pivont 1 0-0 2, Abby Taylor 0 0-0 0, Brennah Davis 0 0-0 0, Audrey Holley 2 0-0 6, Brittney Justice 0 9-11 9, Brandy Morrison 2 4-6 8, Whittney Justice 5 10-12 20. Totals 10 23-29 45.
Faith Davis 5 2-4 14, Kristin Hash 3 0-0 6, Hope Lester 2 8-10 13, Stephanie Brown 0 0-0 0, Megan Endicott 1 0-0 2, Danielle Brown 4 8-8 20, MacKenzie Endicott 1 0-0 2, Hope Davis 0 0-0 0. Totals 16 18-22 57.
Summers County..................5 12 13 15 — 45
Westside..............................8 21 13 15 — 57
3-Pointers - SC - 2 (Holley 2) W - 7 (D. Brown 4, F. Davis 2, Lester. Fouled out - none.