West weathers the storm: Lady Senators hand ‘Burg first SOC II loss since 2018


WHEELERSBURG — Portsmouth West girls basketball head coach Larry Howell gave all the credit for Thursday’s 52-40 win over Wheelersburg to his players.

In his words, they wouldn’t be denied.

After opportunities in several sports to get a win over the Lady Pirates in past years and this, the Lady Senators did just that.

The 12-point win for West ends the Wheelersburg girls basketball program’s 62-game winning streak versus Southern Ohio Conference Division II opponents — a streak that began back on Dec. 6, 2018.

Oak Hill was the last team to earn a win over the Lady Pirates in league play prior to West.

In fact, it’s the Lady Senators’ first win over ‘Burg since a 53-48 win in a 2013 Division III sectional final.

In terms of regular season wins, it’s their first over Wheelersburg since a 46-42 win on Jan. 12, 2012.

“When you’re Portsmouth West, Wheelersburg is one of the first ones on the schedule you’re looking for,” Howell said. “We had this date marked and we were ready to play. These girls are working their butts off and it’s what they wanted. It’s all what the kids did; I’m just over there screaming and yelling at referees. They’re hard workers and wouldn’t be denied tonight.”

Senior Charlie Jo Howard and junior Emma Sayre, who played huge roles with a combined 28 points, spoke to how much they and their teammates worked for Thursday’s win.

“We’ve worked our entire lives for this game to beat this team,” Howard said. “We worked hard in practice, played defense; we did everything right and what we were supposed to.”

“The last few years we’ve lost by five or seven points, always falling short somehow. We just looked at what we needed to fix,” Sayre said. “It means everything that we were able to come out and do that (win) tonight.”

West trailed by as many as eight points in the first half, in large part to an early rebounding deficit and senior guard Lexi Deaver picking up her third foul at the four-minute mark of the second quarter.

All told, the Lady Senators entered the break down just one possession at 19-17 — after a Sayre bucket and a pair of free throws by senior Sydney McDermott.

The second half was when the Lady Senators made their run, as they won the final 16 minutes 35-21.

“We had to weather that storm. We talked about it before the game — we knew the storm was coming,” Howell said. “We were playing a team that hasn’t lost in five years in our league, one of the best programs in southeast Ohio. We just had to weather the storm and come out on the other side. Getting Lexi in foul trouble hurt us, but we had other kids step up like Kate Rollins, Elisha (Andre) and Sydney (McDermott).”

“These two teams know each other really well, have had a lot of really close games,” Wheelersburg coach Dusty Spradlin said, after the game. “I thought both teams came out with good energy, we made some shots early. Probably looking back when we had a chance to extend that lead early, that’s where we missed some opportunities. I knew that they could guard, thought they did a nice of limiting shots for Madison (Whittaker) and Makenna (Walker).”

Despite going without a three-pointer in the first half, the Lady Senators came out firing from long range in the second.

Howard started the third quarter a perfect 3-of-3 from beyond the arc, her final make giving West a 26-24 lead with 5:30 to play in the third.

“I knew I was doing my job on defense. I hadn’t scored before, so I knew I had to do something to come out and help the team,” Howard said.

Wheelersburg’s Lexie Rucker responded with a three to put the Lady Pirates back in front at 27-26 — only 40 seconds later.

That lead, however, was short lived.

Sayre came back down the court and nailed another West three, giving it a 29-27 advantage.

She led all scorers with a game-high 17 points, 11 of which came in the second half.

In the first three minutes and change of the second half, the Lady Senators were 4-of-5 from distance.

“I just knew I needed to step up and calm our team down. I knew that if we played our game, that we were going to come out on top,” Sayre said. “Talked to them (teammates) at halftime to make sure we knew that we were executing our offense and it worked.”

“Charlie hitting those shots. We come out in that second half and we just wanted to play more loose. Evidently it worked because Charlie caught fire and Emma hit the three right behind her,” Howell said. “We got a little lead and we felt like we could move the ball, make them play defense and then attack. It seemed to work for us.”

The Lady Senators defended, and also made the Lady Pirates play defense for long stretches in the fourth quarter.

With as much as a 12-point lead during the fourth, it was advantageous for Howell’s group to move the ball, take quality shots down the stretch, or head to the free-throw line where they were 10-of-11 in the final eight minutes.

Wheelersburg was led in scoring by senior Macee Eaton, who had a team-high 12 points, followed by the senior Rucker’s 10 points.

A pair of three-pointers by Eaton and Rucker inside the 1:04 mark of the fourth quarter were the lone Lady Pirate field goals in the final frame.

West senior Maelynn Howell was an eraser on defense, tallying seven blocks to go along with her seven points on the other end.

“We were locked in defensively,” Coach Howell said,” They’ve been playing these girls (Wheelersburg) for years. So the scouting report, they gave it to me. They knew their strengths and weaknesses and they just worked their butts off to get stops.”

Wheelersburg will return to action on Monday (Dec. 12) at Oak Hill in SOC II play, before hosting Northwest next Thursday.

“Told the girls that I felt like I had to take a lot of the blame on it. Not sure that we’re where we need to be, especially offensively,” Spradlin said. “Hopefully this forces us to be a little bit better, and we’ve got some games that will hopefully force us to do that. We’ve got to get back to work and try to, when we’re playing teams that can really guard, still getting the ball where we need to get it.”

West will host Valley on Monday in SOC II play, as it looks to improve its unbeaten start.

“We’ve got Valley coming to town on Monday, and they’ve been playing some pretty good basketball. We’ll enjoy it tonight and tomorrow, then Saturday come back ready to work,” Howell said.



Portsmouth West 8 9 18 17 — 52

Wheelersburg 14 5 12 9 — 40

West (7-0, 5-0 SOC II):

Maelynn Howell 2 3-7 7, Sydney McDermott 0 2-2 2, Emma Sayre 6 4-4 17, Lexi Deaver 2 2-2 6, Charlie Jo Howard 3 2-2 11, Kate Rollins 3 2-4 9, Elisha Andre 0 0-0 0; TOTALS: 16 15-21 52; Three-point field goals: 5 (Charlie Jo Howard 3, Emma Sayre and Kate Rollins 1 apiece)

Wheelersburg (3-1, 2-1 SOC II): Mia Vastine 0 0-2 0, Madison Whittaker 2 2-2 7, Annie Coriell 1 0-0 3, Kiera Kennard 0 0-0 0, Jocelyn Tilley 0 0-0 0, Makenna Walker 2 3-4 8, Lexie Rucker 3 2-4 10, Macee Eaton 4 2-4 12; TOTALS: 12 9-16 40; Three-point field goals: 7 (Lexie Rucker and Macee Eaton 2 apiece, Annie Coriell, Madison Whittaker and Makenna Walker 1 apiece)

Reach Jacob Smith at (740) 370-0713 ext. 1930, by email at [email protected], or on Twitter @JacobSmithPDT © 2022 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved

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