SOUTH WEBSTER — Against an undefeated on a Saturday afternoon, and without their head coach in fact, the South Webster Lady Jeeps just essentially upset an apple cart of sorts.
That’s because, in executing in key spots and spearheaded by Skylar Zimmerman’s career-high 23 points, the Lady Jeeps jumped in front of Meigs Eastern early and held off the Lady Eagles late —en route to capturing a quality 59-53 non-league girls basketball victory in Jeep Country.
The Lady Jeeps, after opening with losses against Southern Ohio Conference Division II favorites West and Wheelersburg, evened their record to 2-2 —as South Webster’s win will likely look good on its Division III resume, as the Lady Jeeps jumped up from Division IV for this season.
The Lady Eagles are long-regarded as a solid Division IV program —and sometimes have found themselves in the Division III postseason tournament, as they are now 3-1.
In a close encounter all throughout on Saturday, the largest lead by either club was by the Lady Jeeps in the final 41-and-a-half seconds —a 58-49 advantage after South Webster went ahead by seven points apiece inside the final three minutes of both halves (30-23 in first and 54-47 in second).
There were five lead changes and seven ties, but the Lady Jeeps did not trail for the final 11 minutes and 13 seconds.
They forced two Lady Eagles out with five fouls apiece and another one with four, as Eastern only sports eight players — and the Lady Jeeps made 6-of-15 three-point goals, including four by Zimmerman on her seven attempts.
South Webster also overcame 16 turnovers, and perhaps the much more glaring missing 18 of 31 free-throw attempts.
Still, the Lady Jeeps gained a good win — and all without head coach Ryan Dutiel, as he unfortunately missed the game due to illness.
Dutiel’s assistant, Matt Raynard, recorded his first career coaching victory as a result.
“The girls did everything I asked them to do, we distributed the ball well and we played as a team and played hard from the tip. I told them before the game that we were going to press and I don’t think we ever backed off. We will need to work on free throws, but we made up for that in other ways,” said Raynard. “Good to come out on the winning end. It was a great team effort. I told every girl that they needed to be ready to play, and they were.”
Indeed, South Webster will need to work on its foul shooting, although it meshed necessary ones and enough of them — including two apiece in the fourth quarter by Zimmerman and Kerith Wright, and a fourth-quarter split by Addi Claxon.
Wright went 6-of-10 as part of her 13 points, while Bella Claxon went 3-of-4 over the middle two periods.
Instead, the Lady Jeeps offset missed foul shots with made three-point goals, including the four by Zimmerman.
Wright’s one got the Lady Jeeps on the scoreboard, then Zimmerman’s back-to-back bombs from the top of the key and off the wing made it 16-14 with 16 seconds left in the opening quarter.
That was South Webster’s initial lead, as Zimmerman broke a 19-19 tie with her third three-ball —a corner-pocket job with 4:47 left in the second stanza.
Her steal and basket a minute later made it 26-21, then her assist on Addi Claxon’s basket made it 30-23 — with two-and-a-half minutes remaining in the opening half.
Zimmerman made 4-of-5 from inside the arc, and added team-highs in assists (four) and steals (three).
“We were trying to set different screens with different people for Skylar to have her cut and go to the basket. Being a team leader, she is going to have to get her points in different ways. And she did that today,” said Raynard. “She drove well, she shot well. she was on their best player all day defensively, she did everything I asked her to do.”
So too did the rest of the Lady Jeeps.
South Webster’s rotation was eight gals strong, and Addi Claxon and Bella Claxon and Cailee Blevins all scored seven points apiece —as Addi Claxon and Blevins both made three field goals, including Blevins’ corner three that made it 48-42 only 33 seconds into the final period.
Addi Claxon with nine, Bella Claxon with seven, and Wright with six were the top South Webster rebounders.
Kennedy Murphy made a first-quarter bucket, and grabbed five boards.
The Lady Jeeps, truth be told, must be balanced in scoring and rebounding —given the graduation loss of three-time all-Ohioan and Southeast District Division IV Player of the Year Bri Claxon.
“One person can’t win it for us this year,” said Raynard. “Most of our girls are going to have to average close to 10 points per game. Everybody played their role, and that’s what it’s going to take for us to be successful this season. “
Blevins’ basket midway through the third frame forged the 34-34 tie, as Zimmerman’s drive and layup a minute later at the 3:13 mark made it 36-36 —the sixth deadlock.
Zimmerman’s fourth and final three, with 2:52 to play in the third, put the Jeeps in front again —as Erica Durst’s old-fashioned three-point play did tie one final time at 39-39.
But Zimmerman made a back-door cut and go to the goal for her final field goal —and Eastern only got as close as 50-47 in the final eight minutes and 45-and-a-half seconds.
Durst, who tied Juli Durst for the Lady Eagles’ team-high with 15 points, fouled out with 5:15 remaining.
Juli Durst with three and Erica Durst with one combined for four of the Meigs Countians’ five trifectas —as Abby Guthrie got one to fall with 24 seconds showing, making it 58-52.
Erica Durst drained 6-of-7 foul shots, Hope Reed recorded 13 points on six field goals and a split of fourth-quarter freebies, and both Guthrie and Sydney Reynolds had five points apiece.
Raynard also praised the poise and perseverance of the Lady Jeeps.
“It’s always tough to play on a Saturday afternoon, but the girls kept their heads on straight and everybody was relaxed and kept their cool. When they made their runs at us in the second quarter on, it didn’t faze us,” he said. “Just a well-rounded win. That’s a good team that has good players and they are coached well, but you know what, we’re a good team too.”
A good club that upset Eastern’s apple cart of sorts.
The Lady Jeeps returned home, and returned to SOC II action, on Monday night against Waverly.
* * *
Meigs Eastern 14 15 12 12 — 53
South Webster 16 16 13 14— 59
MEIGS EASTERN 53 (3-1)
Juli Durst 6 0-0 15, Hope Reed 6 1-2 13, Erica Durst 4 6-7 15, Sydney Reynolds 2 1-2 5, Kimmie Lyons 0 0-0 0, Abby Guthrie 1 2-6 5, Ella Carleton 0 0-2 0; TOTALS 19 10-19 53; Three-point field goals: 5 (Juli Durst 3, Erica Durst and Abby Guthrie 1 apiece)
SOUTH WEBSTER 59 (2-2)
Joanna Angus 0 0-0 0, Cailee Blevins 3 0-2 7, Addi Claxon 3 1-5 7, Bre Potters 0 0-0 0, Bella Claxon 2 3-4 7, Kerith Wright 3 6-10 13, Skylar Zimmerman 8 3-8 23, Kennedy Murphy 1 0-2 2; TOTALS 20 13-31 59; Three-point field goals: 6 (Skylar Zimmerman 4, Cailee Blevins and Kerith Wright 1 apiece)