Jan. 12—PETERSBURG, W.Va. — On Monday, Frankfort moved into the top spot of the Area Top 5 for the first time this season: Petersburg made sure it didn't last long.
The second-ranked Vikings led the Falcons wire-to-wire on Tuesday, and their disruptive pressure and an offensive outburst by Braylee Corbin led Petersburg past Frankfort, 57-51.
"It seemed a lot like the last five or six we played with them, both teams played extremely hard. Very physical game," Vikings head coach Jon Webster said. "Just when you think someone is going to develop a little separation, somebody else makes a run."
The victory marks three straight Petersburg (9-1) victories over sectional rival Frankfort (7-1), who are without defending Player of the Year Marié Perdew for the remainder of the year.
Despite trailing by as many as 12 points during the second half, Frankfort went on a 10-4 burst early in the fourth to get within 51-49, capped by an athletic old-fashioned 3-point play by Larae Grove. Grove finished with 13 points, eight of which came in the fourth quarter.
However, the Falcons were never able to tie or take the lead, and Petersburg hit 6 of 7 free throws down the stretch to secure the win.
"We missed a lot of shots, but the big thing is, we're down 10, they're ready to take us out of the game and we didn't give up," Frankfort head coach Steve Willison said. "I could see a team that wasn't willing to lose.
"The best team always wins. Today, the best team won, but hopefully not the next time."
Petersburg used a straightforward formula in the early going against Frankfort: speed up the Falcons' offense, and let Corbin go to work.
Frankfort managed just one field goal in the opening eight minutes, and Corbin sunk six herself over that time, including four midrange jumpers, to help Petersburg build a 15-5 lead after one.
Corbin finished with a game-high 25 points. The junior was a rotational piece on Petersburg's state semifinal team of yesteryear, but she's grown into the Vikings' go-to scorer in 2022.
"Braylee has really stepped into a role as being a scorer," Webster said. "Most of the time growing up, she's been able to put the ball in the basket. She just finds a way to do it. We needed her to do that tonight. She did a good job attacking in transition, and picking and choosing a good time to attack in the half-court."
Frankfort found a way back in the second quarter behind Halley and Emily Smith. The duo combined for a 9-2 run, capped by a Halley Smith 3-pointer that narrowed the deficit to 17-14. Smith scored a team-high 17.
Petersburg had an answer for every run. Corbin banged home a three on the next possession, Grove, Frankfort's second-leading scorer, picked up her third foul of the half soon after, and the Vikings took a 28-21 lead into the half.
Petersburg maintained at least a seven-point lead the entire third quarter. The edge stood at 45-36 after three, with the Vikings benefitting from a controversial foul call on a last-second half-court heave that gave Mackenzie Kitzmiller three free throws — she converted on two.
Kennedy Kaposy was a big reason for Petersburg's success, commanding the top of its full-court press. The junior seemingly had an endless motor, and on more than one occasion, Kaposy secured possession by virtue of being the only player willing to put her body on the line and dive to the floor.
"I thought Kennedy played extremely hard," Webster said of his guard, who tied Mickala Taylor for second on the team with nine points. "She's kind of the defensive leader, especially at the front of the press.
"She's the one that gets tasked with guarding the best players a lot of times. Her energy is something that's really hard to duplicate. She seems to never get tired and keeps playing hard."
For one of the first times this season, Frankfort looked uncomfortable for large stretches on the offensive side of the ball. Petersburg forced the top-ranked visitors into 17 turnovers.
"We try to find ways to make people uncomfortable," Webster said. "When we do that, we're pretty successful. And that can look different every night. Tonight with them, it was try to speed them up, and try to make as many ball-handlers handle it as possible."
Arin Lease had a solid second half for Frankfort, where she scored all 10 of her points to finish with a double-double, and Emily Smith chipped in nine. Grace Scott also pulled down 10 boards.
Petersburg was supposed to take on Keyser tonight, but that contest was postponed due to a COVID issue. With no game until next week, the Vikings will most likely regain the top spot in the rankings.
Frankfort enters a tough road stretch to end the week, beginning with Ripley tomorrow at 5:30 p.m. before a bout against Winfield on Saturday at 1:45 p.m.
All year long, Willison has stated his goal is to make states and make a deep run once he gets there. Losing to Petersburg may have put a damper on the Falcons' ranking, but the first-year head coach has bigger aspirations.
"I'm not worried about being ranked No. 1 and I'm not worried about losing games," Willison said. "All I care about is losing my last game."
Alex Rychwalski is a sports reporter at the Cumberland Times-News. Follow him on Twitter @arychwal.