John Marshall pressures, eliminates Bruins from tournament competition

DRIVING — Brooke’s Aleigha Edgar drives in the paint in a Class 3A sectional contest against John Marshall on Wednesday. (Photo by Joe Catullo)

WELLSBURG — Trailing from the beginning, the Brooke girls basketball team came back to within two points with 3:20 left in the game, but John Marshall held on down the stretch to win the opener of the Class 3A Region 1, Section 1 tournament 54-49 Wednesday night inside the Brooke Wellness Center.

The Bruins went into the game as the No. 2 seed in the section and defeated John Marshall twice during the regular season, but they caught the Monarchs on a roll. John Marshall came into the game with a five-game winning streak and had won seven of its last eight games.

The Monarchs will now go to Wheeling Park to play the No. 1 seed today to decide the section championship, but both teams will move on to the Region 1 semifinals in opposite brackets.

Veteran Brooke coach Ryan Scherich sensed that his team was a little tight in the locker room before the game.

“I tried to lighten the girls up before the game,” said Scherich, whose girls were stone cold with their shooting in the first half with only 14 points. “I could see it in their faces that they were nervous. I told them this was just a ball game, go out and play basketball.

“Then, we came out and missed three breakaway layups and a few more layups and put-backs after offensive rebounds. Then at halftime, I told them the same thing again, so in the second half we settled down and the kids, I knew were good shooters, began making some and we crawled back into it.”

John Marshall utilized its speedy guards to get into its offense quickly and, at the half, it took a 24-14 lead to the locker room.

“We have some really good guards that can push the ball. We want to play an up tempo style like that,” said John Marshall coach Brock Melko, whose club now is 10-13. “And on the defensive end, we have so much respect for (Hope) Bowman that we wanted to double her every time she touched the ball. We had a couple of high scorers, but a lot of the credit for this win goes to our defense. Girls like Kairlyn Groves, Anna Blake, Abby Blake didn’t do a lot of scoring, but we couldn’t have won without them.

“Kaitlyn Groves couldn’t have played a better defensive game on Bowman. She boxed her out, made her score over the top. Those are all the things we practiced that she did in the game.”

The scorers for Melko were junior Shay Straughn with 25 points and senior Avery Darrow. Both were very accurate from the foul line. Straughn went there 18 times and made 15 of the freebies, while Darrow was 9-of-12 from the line. The pair combined for 46 of John Marshall’s 54 points.

“They are our leading scorers and we need that, but what is not seen in the box score is the defense and unselfishness of the other girls. We can’t win without them,” Melko said.

It was evident that Bowman, Brooke’s 6-3 junior, was struggling a bit from an ankle injury she sustained a week ago in Brooke’s win at Weir High. However, she came through with another double-double, scoring 13 points and pulling down 17 rebounds.

Brooke’s sophomore point guard, Ashley Arca, led the Bruins with 20. She drained a 3 from the top of the key that narrowed the score to 45-43 with 3:20 left in the game.

With 2:13 left, Melko got a timeout, and his Monarchs did not make a field goal from that point but canned 9-of-10 foul shots for the win.

“We got it down to two, but they went on a little run mostly because we had to foul there at the end,” Scherich said. “If you look at the box scores of the John Marshall games, you will see that they shoot a lot of foul shots in games. They started out with a murderer’s row schedule, but they have a good basketball team. Their record is not indicative of the team they are.”

The Monarchs lost 10 of their first 11 games but have been on a roll the latter part of the season.

“Our schedule was designed for this reason,” Melko said. “We knew even through the losses what kind of team we had. We knew the way they were playing was good enough for what we wanted to do — get to Charleston.”

And the Monarchs took that first step to get there Wednesday night.

John Marshall 54, Brooke 49

John Marshall 12-12-12-18 — 54

Brooke 8-6-16-19 — 49

JOHN MARSHALL (10-13): Henderson 0 0-0 0; Darrow 6 9-12 21; K. Groves 0 0-0 0; An. Blake 0 4-6 4; Ab. Blake 2 0-0 4; Straughn 4 15-18 25. TOTALS: 12 28-37 54. Three-pointers: 2 (Straughn 2); Rebounds: 31 (Straughn 8); Turnovers: 12.

BROOKE (14-7): Fox 0 0-0 0; A. Arca 6 6-13 20; J. Arca 1 0-0 3; Elliott 2 0-0 4; C. Byers 1 0-0 2; Edgar 2 2-5 7; Bowman 5 3-4 13. TOTALS: 16 11-20 40. Three-pointers: 4 (A. Arca 2, J. Arca, Edgar); Rebounds: 35 (Bowman 17).