Nazelrod’s 24-point effort helps Preston outlast Buckhannon-Upshur

KINGWOOD — The Preston High School girls’ basketball team earned a hard-fought 42-39 victory over sectional and Big X conference foe Buckhannon-Upshur in a back-and-forth battle on Thursday night inside The Castle in Kingwood.

The Knights (4-2) overcame a poor shooting performance with a strong defensive effort and 24 points from forward Kendal Nazelrod, who was the bright spot on offense for head coach Brian Miller and his club.

The Lady Bucs (1-2) were led in scoring by Harley Dean with 13 points.

“I put a little pressure on the girls this week and told them flat out how important winning a game like this was,” Miller said. “I told them that every game isn’t built the same. You have some smaller games, some bigger games, some championship games. We had to treat this game different than others if we want to be on a certain side of the bracket at the end of the season.”

The Knights started the game the way they wanted early on and enjoyed a 7-3 lead early in the first quarter. But a 7-0 scoring run (all by Dean) ended the quarter for B-U as it stole a lead 12-9 going into the second frame.

At the 5:47 mark of the second quarter, the Lady Bucs led 16-11, but wouldn’t score another point before halftime as the PHS defense continued to cause turnovers. Nazelrod scored eight points in the quarter to will her team on an 8-0 run before the break that gave the hosts a 19-16 advantage. Nazelrod led all scorers with 24 points going 11 of 18 from the floor.

“I have to hand it to my teammates first,” Nazelrod said. “They were making some good post passes and working hard to get past the double-teams and different defenses they were throwing at us.”

A back-and-forth third quarter saw the game knotted at 23 midway through the frame. B-U began to take better care of the ball to begin the second half, but once again gave away possessions later on. This allowed the Knights to build a two-possession lead just before the fourth, 31-27. 

Another rapid pace to open the fourth saw the hosts take advantage in the opening 90 seconds of the quarter. A layup by Nazelrod gave her team a six-point lead, 35-29, that forced a B-U timeout. The Lady Bucs responded well and managed to cut the lead to 40-37 with 2:45 left in the game.

A layup for each team kept the Preston lead at one possession, 42-39, with 1:20 left in the game. A full minute went by without a point for either team, then with 13.9 seconds left in the game, PHS senior Ella White went to the foul line with a chance to seal the deal. She missed both free throws but the senior captain hustled down to the other end of the floor and forced a tie-up that gave the Knights the ball back and the ability to dribble the clock out after the ensuing inbounds pass to secure the victory.

“I think it’s all about what you are thinking in your head, it’s one play at a time out there,” White said. “You have to erase the bad plays that happened before and be ready to make a play.”

“She’s our leader out there,” Miller said. “Sometimes I’ll ask her for advice in the huddle on things that she sees on the floor. She’s started for three years now and we need her on the floor to be making those kinds of plays.”

The Knights will return home on Tuesday to play host to a state champion out of Maryland in Mountain Ridge High School.

Preston 42, Buckhannon 39
PHS 9 10 12 11 – 42
B-U 12 4 11 12- 39
Preston – Nazelrod 11 2-2 24, Sypolt 3 0-0 6, Miller 2 0-0 5, Bishop 1 1-6 3, White 1 0-2 2, Wilson 1 0-0 2
Buckhannon – Dean 5 3-3 13, Abel 1 1-1 3, Davis 3 0-0 6, Parke 2 0-0 5, Henderson 3 0-0 6, Lahman 1 0-0 3, Smith 1 0-0 3
3pt. Goals: Preston 1 (Miller 1); Buckhannon 3 (Lahman 1, Parke 1, Smith 1)

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