WEST PORTSMOUTH — How fitting that at “The Rock”, the West Lady Senators rebounded by winning a rockfight.
That’s because, far from aesthetically — at least offensively — eye-popping on Monday night against the visiting Minford Lady Falcons, the Lady Senators pitched a defensive gem.
And, as they all say, defense does win championships.
West forced, or the Lady Falcons committed, 20 turnovers —and West stymied Minford for single-digit scoring in all four quarters, en route to the Lady Senators securing a 37-27 slug-away victory in a key Christmas season Southern Ohio Conference Division II tilt.
How key you ask?
West is the first team to complete the opening round robin of SOC II play —and is tied with Wheelersburg and now Minford for the league lead, with that trio all incurring one loss.
West, now 9-1 and 7-1, won at Wheelersburg two weeks ago —snapping the defending champion Lady Pirates’ 62-game SOC II win streak in the process.
That is Wheelersburg’s (6-1, 5-1 SOC II) lone league loss, although a week later at Waverly, the host Lady Tigers stunned the Senators 55-49 —as Waverly (4-2, 4-2 SOC II) remains with two setbacks to Minford and at South Webster.
The sophomore-centric and senior-less Lady Falcons fell to 7-2 and now 6-1 in the division, as the bottom five clubs in the current standings all have at least three league defeats.
For West, with experience and talent on its side, it needed to rebound in a big way on Monday —and although it wasn’t a work of art at all times, the Lady Senators’ defense definitely did the job.
West first-year head coach Larry Howell said it was important for his Lady Senators to bounce back.
And, not to go down two games to the league leader before the holidays —especially given their next contest isn’t until Jan. 2, at non-league Vinton County.
“I think the girls felt like they let one slip away at Waverly and didn’t come ready to play. We had two very good practices since then, and the girls were I think very motivated to come out tonight and get this win,” said Howell.
The only tie was at 2-2 only a minute and 21 seconds in, and as the Lady Senators withstood a 10-3 Lady Falcon run over almost a full eight minutes, West’s deficit was short-lived.
The Lady Senators only trailed for 102 total seconds —from the four-and-a-half minute mark to the 2:48 point of the second quarter.
Minford failed to score for the final four-and-a-half minutes of that stanza, and then only accounted for 13 in the entire second half.
For those into counting, West allowed only 13 points over the final 12-and-a-half-minutes —and the Lady Falcons did not make a three-point goal.
That’s called being stingy, as the Lady Falcons aided the Senators’ cause with missed shots — but more glaring poor passes.
“The gameplan just was to make everything tough for them (Lady Falcons). We didn’t want to spread our defense out too much, because if we got too spread out, we felt that gives them more running opportunities,” said Howell. “We just tried to pack it in, make it tough for them to get the ball to (Lindsee) Williams, try to get her out away from the basket as much as we could. We talked to our guards about getting up in their guards and pressuring them. We did a really good job of that and not letting them have anything easy all night.”
Minford first-year head coach Chuck Miller concurred.
“We had to work so hard to score, then many of our mistakes tonight were simply self-inflicted, shooting ourselves in the foot from silly turnovers. I guarantee you we had at least 20, and you just can’t do that against a good team,” said Miller. “We fought back, but you just can’t shoot yourself in the foot and turn the ball over as many times as we did and expect to win.”
Fouls, like turnovers, also plagued the Lady Falcons —as Maggie Risner had three and guards Lexi Pendleton, Lexi Conkel and Ava Cronin had two apiece in the opening half.
Risner and Conkel fouled out within 30 seconds of each other in the final minute and 22 seconds, as Cronin finished with four and Pendleton three — but the Lady Falcons found themselves down only 33-27 at that point.
But Minford missed an important one-and-one free-throw situation, and Charlie Jo Howard and Kate Rollins registered back-to-back free-throw pairs in the final 45 seconds.
West only trailed 14-13, upped the advantage to 18-14 at halftime, and by outscoring the Lady Falcons 13-5 in the third frame, extended its advantage to as large as 31-19 by the end of the quarter.
The Lady Senators sank three third-quarter trifectas —one by Howard, one by Sydney McDermott, and one by Elisha Andre.
Those were three clutch shots, said both coaches.
“As long as we kept it within four to six points, like it was in the first half, we were fine. But they hit those three threes in the third quarter, and it gave them the momentum they needed,” said Miller.
“We have some kids who can make shots. We know that if we can keep locking in and engaging defensively, at certain points of the game, eventually we will hit a shot or two and give ourselves a bigger lead,” said Howell.
While West’s three threes pushed the lead out, it was still about defense —and making free throws.
Emma Sayre sank 6-of-10, including 4-of-4 for the Lady Senators’ other four third-period points, as senior Lexi Deaver drilled a first-half 6-of-6.
Howard had 3-of-4, as West went 17-of-22 as a team.
“We made our free throws tonight, whereas at Waverly we were 3-of-11 or something like that. It’s a mentality to make free throws in a pressure situation,” said Howell. “We put a little pressure on them during the shooting drills, then hopefully they have to concentrate better.”
Actually, the Lady Senators only had eight field goals —four twos and four threes —to Minford’s 10, as McDermott made a first-quarter triple for a 9-4 advantage halfway through.
McDermott in the second quarter, Sayre in the fourth, and Deaver and Maelynn Howell in the opening quarter combined for West’s four deuces.
McDermott, Sayre and Deaver led the Lady Senators with eight points apiece, as Minford’s six-foot and three-inch sophomore Lindsee Williams was the game-high gal with 15 —on six twos and 3-of-4 second-half free throws.
Williams made five field goals for 10 first-half points, but only scored once from the floor in the second —with 5:25 remaining.
Marlee Pendleton followed Williams with eight points on two baskets and 4-of-5 foul shots, as Conkel in the third and Risner in the fourth with buckets were the only other Lady Falcons’ points.
For Minford, it has no time to wallow in the mire —with Wheelersburg invading the Falcons’ Nest for another massive matchup on Thursday night.
“If you are a team like we are that has aspirations to compete for and win a league championship, then you have to show up every night, especially nights like tonight. We didn’t show up tonight. This week was going to determine what we’re made of,” said Miller. “This wasn’t the team that we’ve played like all year so far, but hopefully against Wheelersburg, we come back home and have a better result.”
For West, by winning a rockfight at The Rock, it got the result — and immediate rebound —it wanted.
“Righted the ship some here tonight, so we have some momentum going into January for the SOC II,” said Coach Howell. “There’s about five teams really playing good ball right now in the league, so we have to do a good job of preparing for the second half.”
* * *
Minford 8 6 5 8 —27
West 11 7 13 6 —37
MINFORD 27 (7-2, 6-1 SOC II)
Lexi Pendleton 0 0-0 0, Maggie Risner 1 0-0 2, Ava Cronin 0 0-0 0, Baylee Hammonds 0 0-0 0, Lexi Conkel 1 0-0 2, Lindsee Williams 6 3-4 15, Marlee Pendleton 2 4-5 8; TOTALS 10 7-9 27; Three-point field goals: none
WEST 37 (9-1, 7-1 SOC II)
Maelynn Howell 1 0-0 2, Sydney McDermott 3 0-0 8, Emma Sayre 1 6-10 8, Lexi Deaver 1 6-6 8, Charlie Jo Howard 1 3-4 6, Kate Rollins 0 2-2 2, Elisha Andre 1 0-0 3; TOTALS 8 17-22 37; Three-point field goals: 4 (Sydney McDermott 2, Charlie Jo Howard and Elisha Andre 1 apiece)
Reach Paul Boggs at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1926, by email at [email protected], or on Twitter @paulboggssports © 2022 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved