Paige Smith's 3 sets off game-clinching scoring run as Trinity overcomes rival Clay-Battelle 53-42

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Andrew Spellman, The Dominion Post, Morgantown, W.Va.
·6 min read
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Apr. 8—BLACKSVILLE, W.Va. — Paige Smith didn't lead Trinity in points Wednesday night inside the Statler Wilson Gymnasium at Clay-Battelle, but her clutch 3-pointer to open the fourth quarter set into motion a deep run to break away from and push the Warriors over their Class A rival 53-42.

The trey is just a small piece of Smith's success this season. The younger sister of senior guard Jaclyn Smith, Paige is leading the Warriors in many different columns on the running stat sheet. Her success, though, she said is just as much of a testament to her teammates' success as it is hers.

"You just have to believe in yourself, " she said. "You miss a shot just take another one and, not just yourself, it's your teammates. The girls that are on the bench, I can't tell you how they lift us all up and hype us up after a missed shot. And playing with my sister, it's funny ; we get down on each other and then the next quarter we're throwing an assist to each other. Another big key is Jenna [Barnett 3/8 and Ruby [Smith McCrobie 3/8, we're all freshmen and we've all played together since elementary. We all know each other and they're a big key to my success and theirs, too."

Head coach Mike Baldy agreed, Smith has come into her own as a freshman.

"Paige has been incredible all season, " he said. "She's leading the stats in almost every category ; it's across the board. She's super coachable, she's a rim runner, she's a finisher ... Paige has just been incredible for us. She's not scoring a heck of a lot but she's a stat sheet stuffer."

Defense was the name of the game in the first quarter as Trinity (7-4) went small against a much taller C-B starting five. A steal and multiple deflections by SuCora Brown gave TCS much-needed fast break opportunities, which were capped with a quick transition layup for Olivia Austin—who was back in her first game since overcoming pneumonia—to push the Cee-Bees ahead 12-10 at the end of the quarter.

In the opening minute of the second, Liv Ammons put up five quick points to give Clay-Battelle (9-6) a lead itwouldn't relinquish through the rest of the half. Trinity, down three with under 2 minutes remaining, snapped its cold streak behind a small jumper from McCrobie. Austin kept pushing the tempo on transition, getting the Warriors some more momentum but her chance to retake the lead fell short and C-B held strong into the break.

Trinity stuck with its second rotation to open the second half, but the Cee-Bees crashed the boards to keep the lead. But TCS, still within striking range, began to go to McCrobie again to retake and hold lead following two quick kisses in the paint, allowing the Warriors to enter the fourth quarter up, 31-29.

Trinity opened the final quarter with a hot hand, as two big shots by Paige Smith and a bucket and 1 by Maggie Mercure pushed the Warriors' lead to 10, but a response trey by Ronda Petrucci put it back under double digits. A few possessions later, Ammons punched into the paint for an uncontested layup to chip away at Trinity's lead more, cutting the deficit to five with 3:44 left. But following a short timeout by Baldy, Mercure sank a short 3 to pad the Warriors' lead, and the two teams traded buckets down the stretch as Trinity held on for the win.

"Joyce is the man, he had them ready in the first half, " Baldy said. "We talked at halftime and said, 'Do we need to make adjustments ?' What we drew up before the game we thought was going to be open basically was, when we enter the ball to the corner we send a curler through and then we'd pump fake it to the curler, pump fake it to the girl coming to the ball-side wing and then Ruby would be wide open in the middle of the paint ; we saw it on film. And we weren't doing that. ... We went back in the second half and did what we planned. That was the big difference."

Despite the two squads still having a few games to close the regular season, both coaches agreed the revived rivalry game was a litmus test for sectionals.

"Sectionals is very different for us, " Baldy said. "The only team we've played so far is Notre Dame and we know we'll play them in the first round of sectionals so that's exciting for us because they're a well-coached team, it's a rivalry, I know they've had some struggles this season but those girls play with great attitudes and I'm sure they've improved a ton throughout the season."

"What we saw tonight was kind of standard, " C-B coach David Joyce said. "In that, we've got the legs for about maybe two strong quarters or 2 1 /2 and then we wear out. It's a little bit of a depth issue, it's a lot of conditioning ; that's part on me, part on COVID and part on playing four games a week. But that seemed to be where we were struggling a little bit. Their inside game tonight, I mean, Ruby was tough. We didn't get a chance to stop her like we wanted."

McCrobie led the Warriors with 15 points, while Mercure had nine. Mercure led the team in boards with six and McCrobie had five. Austin led the team in assists with four, while Paige Smith led with three steals.

Ammons paced the Cee-Bees with 20 points, while Autumn Stewart had 12.

"Ruby Smith McCrobie, really the last two weeks, has come on strong, " Baldy said. "I don't know if you heard me over there [at the bench 3/8 yelling, 'Hammer it to Ruby, ' so we were having trouble getting it to her and were passing it to her from the top of the key a little too much. That's what we were trying to correct, but I felt like we corrected enough down the stretch. She's really turning the corner as far as sealing off and her finishing has been so good lately.

"It was Liv's birthday so we're happy she got to have a good game today. We're happy she was happy to have a happy birthday and be on the court with the girls she loves so much and the girls the love her so much."

Up next, Trinity hosts Frankfort 7:30 p.m. Thursday. Clay-Battelle welcomes Tygarts Valley at 7 p.m. Friday for Senior Night.

BOX SCORE Trinity 12 8 11 22 — 53 Clay-Battelle 10 11 8 13 — 42 TCS: Ruby Smith McCrobie 7 1-5 15 ; Maggie Mercure 3 1-1 9 ; Paige Smith 3 0-0 7 ; Olivia Austin 3 0-0 6 ; Sucora Brown 3 0-0 6 ; Jenna Barnett 0 4-6 4 ; Kyndel Kisner 1 0-0 2 ; Kaylee Wimer 0 2-2 2 ; Jaclyn Smith 0 2-2 2. Totals: 20 10-16 53.

C-B: Liv Ammons 8 2-2-20 ; Autumn Stewart 3 6-9 12 ; Ronda Petrucci 3 0-0 8 ; Camren Watson 1 0-0 2. Totals: 15 8-11 42.

3-pointers: TCS 3 (Mercure 2 ; Paige Smith 1); CB 4 (Ammons 2 ; Petrucci 2).

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