Utilizing its bench players, and a healthy dose of the usual Lady Pirates defense, Wheelersburg secured a spot a Division III District Final with a 49-42 victory over the Lady Mustangs at Waverly. The Lady Pirates were down 14-9 at one point in the second quarter, but outscored Lynchburg-Clay 40-28 the rest of the way to pick up the win.
"Even though we didn't come out and weren't very productive early offensively, I still thought that we defended well," said Wheelersburg coach Dusty Spradlin. "We did try to run several kids in and out and use a pretty good rotation with our kids, and I thought all of our kids that played did a nice job for us.
"One of the big things with depth is that when you get in these types of games and this atmosphere, there is a lot of emotion early and sometimes, you have a tendency to get tired quick," he added. "So, it is really important that we can rotate people in and keep people fresh."
Most of the team's offensive production came from the tandem of Sarah Schmidt and Jessica Blanton. Schmidt had a game-high 16 points and added four steals, while Blanton had 15 points to go along with five rebounds and four steals of her own.
After the Lady Pirates scored just five points in the first quarter, the duo combined for 14 of the team's 20 points in the second quarter, including a Schmidt layup before time expired to give the team a 25-21 lead at halftime and needed momentum.
"We knew coming in that some shots may fall, and some might not," said Schmidt. "They have good post players, so we knew that we had to pressure their guards so that they could not get it into the post.
"I think it was good for us, though (the slow start), because in games to come, that will happen - where we have to fight through some tough times," she added. "Shots weren't falling in the beginning, but our defense stayed up, so I think it helped us out for the future."
Wheelersburg's scoring was rounded out by the play of Taylor Ross and the post combination of Brooke Baker and Lainee Clay. Clay had four points, while Ross and Baker had six and eight, respectively. Baker also had four steals
Most of Ross' and Baker's points helped the Lady Pirates quell the Lady Mustangs' momentum, and helped propel the team's lead to double-digits throughout the second half.
"Those two were really important for us," said Spradlin. "They have that ability, and they are both so athletic that they can come in and cause some matchup problems."
The win improves Wheelersburg's record to 20-2 on the season, and the Lady Pirates will now take on SOC II rival Minford in a district final on Feb. 23 at noon at Waverly's downtown arena. The Lady Falcons topped Eastern Brown 52-45 in Thursday's other semifinal.
For the Lady Mustangs, Kelsey Lewis had 14 points, while Cal Hatten had 10 points, rebounds and two steals.
JOSH HICKLE can be reached at (740) 353-3101, ext. 241.
Lynchburg-Clay 8 13 6 15 - 42
Wheelersburg 5 20 10 14 - 49
Lynchburg-Clay - Lewis 3 6 14, Hatten 4 2 10, Wright 3 2 8, Cinnamon 2 2 7, Hawk 1 0 3. Totals 13 12 42.
Wheelersburg - Schmidt 4 7 16, Blanton 5 3 15, Baker 4 0 8, Ross 3 0 6, Clay 1 2 4. Totals 17 12 49.
3-pointers - Lynchburg-Clay 4 (Lewis 2, Cinnamon, Hawk), Wheelersburg 3 (Blanton 2, Schmidt).
Records - Wheelersburg 20-2.