CHARLESTON – Tucker County played in their 13th straight State Tournament this past week on Thursday March 20th.
The Mt. Lions took to the court in the Civic Center against a familiar opponent in Notre Dame, a team they played 3 times previously in the season. Tucker County was unable to extend their season as they fell in overtime in the State Quarter-Finals to Notre Dame 63-57.
Neither team lead by more than 5 points throughout the game and the first quarter was close throughout as the Irish lead after one 18-13. Tucker County would fight back in the second quarter with a 3 point basket by Austin Zirk and 2 baskets each from Ian Nichols and Derek Zirk. Owen Evans also contributed one basket in the quarter as the Mt. Lions went into the half tied with the Irish 26-26.
The third quarter was no different than the first two quarters as both teams battled back and forth. A big quarter by Landon Dillard off the bench and starter Mitchell Mason helped Tucker County outscore Notre Dame 13-12 to take a slim lead after three 39-38. The Irish surged ahead by 5 points 50-45 after a 3 point basket by Jarrod West at the 4:56 mark in the fourth. The Mt. Lions would respond as they went on a 7-0 run to take a 2 point lead 52-50 after a 3 point basket by Austin Zirk with 2:40 left in the contest. Notre Dame tied the game 52-52 on the next possession with a jump shot by Cal Cistaro with 2:16 remaining. Tucker County had a chance to win the game at the end of regulation as the Ian Nichols shot rimmed out and the put back attempt by Mitchell Mason did not go which force the game to overtime.
Notre Dame then raced out to a 5 point lead with 2:01 left in the overtime period after a 3 by West and a jumper by Cistaro to make the score 57-52. Tucker County would then draw within 2 points 57-55 after 2 foul shots each by Austin and Derek Zirk with 1:09 left in overtime. Notre Dame called timeout and designed a play for the out of bounds that resulted in a layup for West to stretch the lead to 4 points 59-55 with 59 seconds left. The Mt. Lions were unable to get any closer the rest of the game and the Irish made their foul shots to get the victory 63-57.
Tucker County coach Tom Gutshall talked about the chance to win the game in regulation after the game, “We had 2 shots to win it, they made a shot we didn’t, four times we played this year and we had a chance to win every time.”
Gutshall who has been the Head Coach at Tucker County for the past 31 ½ years announced his retirement after the game. The coach stated, “I’m proud of my seniors and I don’t want to make it about me, but this is it for me, it has been an honor to coach at Tucker County for so many years.” He added. “I can’t thank the kids enough for the hard work and dedication they’ve shown to me throughout my 31 ½ years.”
Ian Nichols led the Mt. Lions with 17 points and 9 rebounds, Derek Zirk added 13 points and 12 rebounds while Mitchell Mason contributed 10 points and 8 boards. Tucker County finished the season with a record of 17-7. For more Tucker County Sports info go to TuckerCountySports.Com.