Cameron crowned sectional champs at Madonna’s expense
CAMERON — Cameron girls’ coach Holly Pettit felt chills during the National Anthem of Friday’s Region 1 Section 1 championship game because she knew what her team had a chance to accomplish and what still lies ahead.
When the final whistle blew, the Dragons did exactly what her coach was hoping for — winning their first sectional title since 2008 — defeating Madonna 53-43 in front of a raucous student section.
“This is super exciting,” Pettit said. “I was emotional during the National Anthem, and I told the girls before the game that I had complete faith in them. This particular group, from the seniors to the freshmen, I knew this was going to be our chance to break the mold a little bit. In the past we’ve gotten to the regional, and it’s like we always get to the second to last step, but we want to try to get to the top step this time.”
Cameron (15-1) will put its 14-game winning streak on the line when it hosts Clay-Battelle Wednesday in the regional semifinal, while Madonna will trek to Doddridge County on Tuesday.
“The message to our girls is we have to refocus and become mentally tough because we earned a mulligan on Tuesday because we won our first-round game,” Madonna coach Cory Wingett said. “If we mentally focus a little better on execution, we can play with teams like this.”
Cameron led 9-5 after one and held a narrow 19-16 edge over the Dons at halftime.
“Defensively, I felt we did pretty well throughout the game,” Wingett said. “Our assistant coaches came up with a wonderful game plan to disrupt their offensive flow, and it had some effect. You’re not going to stop their point guard, and you’re not going to stop their forward. You just hope to control them in some way, but I’m very proud of the girls on the defensive side.”
Senior Lili Neely had eight points at the break in a tight battle.
“We haven’t played in 13 days,” Pettit said. “I knew we were probably going to be rusty. There were probably some nerves because this was the first time we’ve had a huge crowd, and I think it showed in the first quarter. But, after the first quarter, we settled down and I think the crowd had a huge role in (Friday’s) game.”
With Cameron leading, 26-23, in the third period, freshman Ashlynn VanTassell recorded a bucket and drew a foul. Although she missed the free throw, Neely was there to collect the rebound and get the layup. Freshman Kenzie Clutter followed with a pair of free throws to put Cameron ahead, 32-23, and the Dragons never looked back.
Cameron led, 37-30, after three, and Neely added seven points in the fourth to seal the deal.
Vanessa Alatis paced the Blue Dons with 15 points and Jazzy Melnyk tallied 14.
“The challenge was our shooting (Friday). This gym and us just don’t get along. Maybe I’ll try to rent the gym this summer so we could come down and shoot,” Wingett said with a laugh. “But those things happen. That’s basketball.
“Hopefully we’ll see them again. It’s always a great contest, and we were only down three at the half. We just couldn’t get over some of that stuff.”
Neely scored 22 points in the game, and VanTassell netted 16 points with 20 rebounds underneath to secure the double-double for Cameron.
“We’re just taking it one game at a time,” Pettit said. “We have great assistant coaches who work hard day-in and day-out to best prepare the team. So, this is rewarding.”
Cameron 53, Madonna 43
Madonna 5 11 14 13 — 43
Cameron 9 10 18 16 — 53
MADONNA: Melnyk 6 2-4 14; Moore 3 2-2 8; Martinez 1 0-0 2; Backel 1 0-0 2; Alatis 4 5-6 15; McCoy 1 0-0 2. TOTALS: 16, 9-12: 43.
CAMERON: Whipkey 2 1-2 7; Clutter 1 5-6 8; Neely 8 4-9 22; VanTassell 6 4-9 16; Gray 0 0-0 0; Carter 0 0-0 0. TOTALS: 17, 14-26: 53.
3-POINT GOALS: Madonna 2 (Alatis 2); Cameron 5 (Whipkey 2, Neely 2, Clutter).