MCCONNELLSBURG >> There's a pretty simple defensive strategy when playing McConnellsburg's girls basketball team: Shut down Bronwyne Mellott.
Easier said than done, though.
But Southern Fulton seemed to figure her out Friday night. The Indians held the area's leading scorer to just 11 points, including four from the line and a 3-pointer in the final minute, and captured a 54-38 victory in the first round of the District 5 Class A playoffs.
Southern Fulton (14-9) will face the No. 1-seed Tussey Mountain (20-3), a 60-29 winner over Salisbury, on Wednesday at a site and time to be decided. McConnellsburg ends its season with a 12-11 record.
"We knew the best way to beat them was to take (Mellott) out mentally," Southern Fulton coach Terry Bard said. "With that aggressive defense, that's the only way to do it. They knew we had to play tough on her and not let her get anything easy. You have to be on her constantly."
Although Bard was plenty satisfied with his overall team defense, he should give most of the credit to Shaye Smartt, who marked Mellott for the majority of the game.
"My teammates helped me a lot, though," Smartt said. "As soon as I got down on the block, we tried to shut down her left side. If I couldn't shut her down on the baseline, the wing would drop down and cover her. It was a team effort stopping her, but I just tried to keep her going to her right, which helped us stop her from dribbling down the left side and even getting close to the basket."
But it wasn't just Mellott who struggled for the Lady Spartans. McConnellsburg shot a mere 24.5 percent (12-for-49) from the field and only four Spartans scored at all.
"I really think it was the hype of this game," McConnellsburg coach Brent Seville said. "It wasn't so much their defensive pressure as much as it was we were just off. I think a lot of it had to with nerves for this type of game."
Sam Roberts carried most of the load for the Spartans, finishing with 13 points. Roberts also did a nice job of keying in on Olivia Mottern, the Indians' leading scorer. But unfortunately for the Spartans, Southern Fulton got an offensive spark from Smartt, who finished with nine points and five rebounds in the first half alone.
"They started doing that diamond-and-one on Liv, and we just saw the seams and started cutting better," Smartt said. "The plays we were running seemed to be opening me up on offense. We were seeing each other well and finding the open person with diagonal passes."
Spartan center Kylie Keefer said, "We tried doing like a junk defense whenever we had one on Olivia Mottern, to keep her from making less shots. That worked, but we had to go into a man because everyone was making shots."
Moreover, despite being frustrated and not scoring any points in the first half, Mottern quickly picked it up. After Mellott hit a free throw to start the second half, Mottern reeled off eight straight points, including a pair of deep 3-pointers, to give Southern Fulton its largest lead to that point.
"Teams know that I'm an outside shooter, so I'm not gonna get the three right at the line," said Mottern, who finished with a game-high 22 points. "In my driveway at home, I really try to work on expanding my range to hit those outside threes. They're not expecting it, and I just kind of hope it goes in."
Bard said, "I told them in the locker room that we were up by six and Liv hadn't score a point, which was fine. The team stepped up and had a nice half on the offensive end. And she got over it, and had a really big half."
NOTES >> SF out-rebounded the Spartans, 34-17; Seville said, "They were getting second opportunities when they did miss, and there's no reason we shouldn't be able to out-rebound them." ... Smatt finished with 15 points ... Keefer also contributed 11 points for McConnellsburg.
SOUTHERN FULTON (54)
Tylar Smith 0 0-0 0, Allison Spade 1 0-0 3, Celina Merchant 1 4-7 6, Shaye Smartt 4 6-7 15, Olivia Mottern 7 4-5 22, Drew Hann 2 0-0 4, Lakyn Morton 1 2-2 4, Brianne Wawro 0 0-0 0, Emily Bradshaw 0 0-0 0, Lindsey Palmer 0 0-0 0, Madison Baker 0 0-0 0, Kierstyn Morton 0 0-0 0.
Totals — 16 16-21 54.
Sam Roberts 5 1-4 13, Bronwyne Mellott 3 4-6 11, Bridgette Ritchey 1 0-0 3, Kylie Keefer 5 1-1 11, Michaela Kendall 0 0-0 0, Alexis Mellott 0 0-0 0, Kellyn Perry 0 0-0 0, Justice Seville 0 0-0 0.
Totals — 12 6-11 38.
3-point goals — SF 6 (Mottern 4, Smartt, Spade), McC 4 (Roberts 2, B.Mellott, Ritchey).