ST. ALBANS — The last time the Logan High School girls’ basketball team made it to the state tournament — 13 years ago to be exact — players like Shayna Gore, Monica Mitchell, Kyra Cline and Hannah Tothe were mere tykes.
Mitchell, Logan’s 6-foot-2 freshman center and just 15-years-old, was only two when the Lady Cats last graced the Charleston Civic Center floor on the big state tournament stage in 2000.
Logan, however, made history on Tuesday night by knocking off homestanding St. Albans, 57-46, in the Class AAA Region 4 co-championship game before a packed house at the crackerbox St. Albans High School gym.
The Lady Cats’ long journey back to state is now complete.
When the buzzer sounded, Logan players rushed the court, hugging, smiling, laughing.
It had been a long time coming.
Thirteen years of frustration had ended.
Logan now advances to next week’s field-of-eight Class AAA state tourney at the Charleston Civic Center.
Logan’s only other trip to the girls’ state tournament in the modern post Title IX era was in 1976, when girls’ basketball was played in the fall in West Virginia.
The Lady Cats will join Morgantown, Parkersburg South, Martinsburg, Princeton and Spring Valley in the 3A field. Two other regional games — Elkins at Hedgesville and Capital at Greenbrier East — were postponed due to weather.
Logan (15-9) just played Spring Valley last Friday at Huntington in the Class AAA sectional finals and lost narrowly, 68-67.
St. Albans saw its season come to an end at 14-11.
Logan third-year coach Kevin Gertz said it’s great for the Logan girls’ program to make it back to the Big House.
“This is our third time,” Gertz said. “We went in ‘76, 2000 and now 2013. I know just a year or two before I took over one of my dear friends Tim Cunningham was our coach. I was told that we were 144th in the state in the power index. I believe that was dead last in all three of the classes. And in the first power index that came out this year we were 11th. Our program has grown leaps and bounds. We have very good players, no doubt about it. These kids have worked hard and have worked hard in the off-season. We’ve done a great job.”
The Lady Cats have stolen the thunder this season from the usual powerhouse Logan boys’ program, which is struggling through a losing campaign this year.
Logan has drawn record home crowds this season for such marquee matchups against Morgantown and Greenbrier East.
On Tuesday night at St. Albans, about half the crowd was filled with blue and gold clad Lady Cat backers.
It was loud.
It was crazy.
It was something a basketball player — boy or girl — dreams of.
“It was unbelievable,” Gertz said when asked about the raucous atmosphere. “It wasn’t just us and our fans. They (St. Albans) were loud, too. This was as loud as any boys’ game that has been in this gym this year I guarantee it.”
Logan’s sophomore all-state guard Shayna Gore was held to nine points for the game but contributed in other ways as she handed out 15 assists and also had three steals. Gore had scored 27 and 36 points last week in the sectionals to lead the Lady Cats.
“I gave her a hug a halftime and I said, ‘Just play your game,’” Gertz said. “Shayna is a tremendous player and has been our leading scorer for almost every game this season. They shut her down but she got other people involved. That’s how we got that first half lead. She finished the fourth quarter like an all-stater.”
While Gore was being blanketed by the St. Albans defense, other Logan players stepped up and stepped up big.
Most notably were senior Hannah Tothe and junior Kyra Cline. Tothe led the Lady Cats with a game-high 20 points, while Cline had 16. Tothe netted 5-of-5 3-pointers in the first half for 15 points as Logan led 33-19. Cline nailed three treys for the game and had 14 at the break. The two were often left open and got good looks at the basket.
“She shot unbelievable,” Gertz said of Tothe. “At halftime, Hannah had 15 and Kyra had 14. That was 29 out of the 33 points that we had. We’ll take it. Somebody’s got to score. I told them that we were going to see a lot of zone and that we had to knock down some shots tonight and we did.”
Mitchell had a double-double with 12 points and 15 rebounds.
“Almost every game Shayna and Monica have led us in scoring,” Gertz said. “Shayna averages close to 20 points a game and Monica averages 16 or 17. Tonight, they didn’t do that — not like they normally do. But what I liked about this game is that other kids stepped up early.”
St. Albans was led by Lexie Cooper’s 16 points. Brenna Propst had 11.
Logan jumped on top of the Red Dragons 16-3 in the first quarter after a pair of 3-pointers by Cline and Tothe.
Cline added a free throw to push the lead to 17-3.
Logan led 20-9 after the first quarter and was never really seriously challenged the rest of the game.
In the second, the Lady Cats’ lead stretched to 28-11 with 3:58 to go until halftime after two more Cline 3-pointers and an inside bucket by Mitchell.
Tothe later made it 31-15 with 2:43 left after draining her fifth 3-pointer of the half.
Logan led St. Albans 33-19 at the half and 47-33 after three.
The Red Dragons tried to make a comeback in the fourth quarter but missed five critical free throws during the stanza.
Logan’s lead was cut to 47-38 with 6:05 left after Torry Wilson canned a topside 3-ball.
Then with 4:26 left, Logan’s Hannah Adkins missed the front end of a one-and-one but Mitchell was there to grab the rebound and get a putback off the glass. She was hacked on the play and tacked on the free throw for a three-point play as the Lady Cats led 50-38.
St. Albans had its chances but missed four foul shots over the next minute and a half.
But with 1:47 left, Cooper’s 3-pointer cut the Logan lead to 51-43.
Forced to foul and in the bonus, Logan then stepped to the line to seal the game.
The Lady Cats did just that.
With 1:37 to go, Tothe swished two free throws to make it 53-43.
Gore added two more foul shots with 1:07 remaining to up the margin to 55-43. She then split with 47.1 ticks left as Logan led 56-43.
Tothe then added the finishing touches on the win with 23.7 seconds left as she split from the charity line.
Coach Gertz said he was glad his team was able to hold on for the win to get the regional championship.
“I tried to get us to slow down,” Gertz said. “We don’t know how to play with a lead because we’ve come back in so many of our wins. We don’t know how to play ahead. Now, we’re the underdog from every game that we play from here on out. So, honestly, I hope that we are down four, five or six points going into the fourth quarter at state. We play a heck of a lot better that way I can tell you that.”
Logan doesn’t yet know who it will play in the state tourney.
Not all of the regions have crowned champions and the seedings and brackets have yet to be chosen. The tournament is set to begin on Wednesday, March 6 and run until Saturday, March 9 with the Class AAA, AA and Single-A state title games.
Gore said it’s a thrill just to make it there.
“It’s crazy. We have worked really hard for this,” Gore said. “We’re excited and this is our goal to play in the state tournament. I’m so proud of my team.”
Tothe said it will be special to close out her prep career next week in the state tourney.
“After four years, it being my senior year and my career going to end on the Civic Center floor and trying to win a state championship I couldn’t ask for anything more,” she said.
— Look for more on the Lady Cats’ state tournament berth in Friday’s print edition and on www.loganbanner.com.