WEST PORTSMOUTH — With West’s experienced, athletic, and even lengthy lineup —look out when the Lady Senators can get on a roll like they did on Thursday night.
That’s because, against a good South Webster club, the host Lady Senators seized control of a key Southern Ohio Conference Division II tilt in the middle two quarters —and ultimately captured a 65-43 runaway win at The Rock.
Throughout a fast-paced high-octane first salvo, West and the Lady Jeeps jostled for an early edge —and the Lady Senators stood in front 22-19.
In an immaterial but bookend fourth quarter, West won that canto 12-11.
Yes, Thursday’s difference was in the middle two stanzas, which West won with a reciprocal 31-13 output, including only five Lady Jeep markers in the third frame —baskets by Skylar Zimmerman and Addi Claxon and a split of free throws from Bella Claxon.
The Lady Senators extended their lead from 42-27 at halftime to 53-32 at the end of three —as they shot the ball from both inside and outside, and wore South Webster down with their transition attack.
With the win, West raised its records to 11-1 and 8-1 in the SOC II —tied with Wheelersburg (8-1 SOC II) atop the division standings.
The Lady Senators swept the South Webster regular-season series with Thursday’s triumph, defeated both Wheelersburg and third-place Minford (7-2 SOC II) through the opening half of the league’s double round -robin play, and have bounced back from their loss at Waverly to keep pace with the defending champion Lady Pirates.
West first-year head coach Larry Howell admitted that when his Lady Senators shoot the ball well, defend and rotate, and subsequently play like they did against the Lady Jeeps, they will be difficult for anybody to defeat.
Following the Lady Jeeps’ 19-point opening quarter, they accounted for only 43 points the remainder of the way.
“We have some things we need to work on of course, but we have good players. If we share the ball offensively and be balanced, and get stops and rebound the ball and get our transition game going like we did tonight…The first quarter we ran pretty good and scored 22 points, but we weren’t getting to their shooters. Second quarter, third quarter, we got our defense back and got set. When we can do that, we can be hard to score on. We need to get out on shooters and close down the paint. We feel like we can get out and run a little bit because we have quick guards and our posts run the floor well,” said Howell. “The first game we played them, I felt we hurt them in transition, and thought we could do that again tonight.”
The Lady Senators did just that, as they only trailed (3-2) for a mere nine seconds inside the opening minute —and the only tie was at 6-6 only two minutes and 15 seconds in.
While West knocked shots down and sped South Webster up, the Lady Jeeps —after falling behind 13-6 on one of Charlie Jo Howard’s three three-point goals —never got closer than 18-16 with a minute and 54 seconds left in the first.
One of Skylar Zimmerman’s three three-pointers made it 22-19 by first frame’s end, but the Lady Senators opened the first four minutes and 10 tics of the second stanza with 10 unanswered.
South Webster wasn’t within single digits for the final two-and-a-half quarters, and West ballooned its lead to as large as 23 points (53-30) with 43 seconds left in the third.
Along with experience and athleticism, West’s advantages also featured size —spearheaded by the almost six-foot tall senior Maelynn Howell.
Howell has an all-around versatile game, and scored seven field goals through the opening three periods for 14 points —a dozen of which were in the opening half.
She also grabbed six rebounds, and presented a major matchup problem for the undersized Lady Jeeps.
West’s aggressive guards did too, as Lexi Deaver drained seven field goals for a team-high 15 points —while Howard hit three threes and 3-of-4 second-half free throws for 13.
“When Maelynn (Howell) plays hard, good basketball, we’re a really tough team to beat. She can block shots, run the floor, score inside, play outside,” said Coach Howell. “We’re a matchup problem for them (Lady Jeeps) with our guards and our size. The main thing we focus on is getting stops. If we can get stops, we feel our offense will take care of itself. Because our team is pretty skilled. We emphasize defense, and defense is a hard sell to kids, but these girls buy into it and understand that it helps them to be successful.”
SWHS coach Ryan Dutiel concurred.
“We wanted to slow down their transition, and try to put somebody back, but they shot the ball really well. I imagine their percentage was really high. I didn’t think we played really good defense on the inside. Our defense was better on the perimeter, and (Maelynn) Howell really hurt us underneath. They really exploited that,” he said. “It’s no secret that we don’t have a lot of size, so we have to match up the best we can. We tried a variety of defenses to try and keep them off-balance, but everything we tried, they figured it out. Or we would make a mistake defensively by getting beat backdoor or giving up a key second shot. It just didn’t work out for us.”
The Lady Jeeps kept it close early behind seven first-half three-pointers, including five first-quarter trifectas —three by freshman Addi Claxon and two apiece by Zimmerman and Kerith Wright.
But South Webster ran low on fuel in keeping up with West’s pace, and only splashed three fourth-frame threes (one apiece by Claxon, Zimmerman and Riley Raynard) from there.
Claxon led the Lady Jeeps with a game-high 16 points on 6-of-10 shooting, including eight in the opening quarter, as she tallied two twos to go along with her four threes.
Zimmerman dialed up 10 total shots as well —with three deuces and two treys towards 13.
Wright scored all eight of her points in the first half, which included two triples —as Wright and Claxon with threes and Riley Raynard with a basket made up the Lady Jeeps’ second-period points.
But, as Newfound Glory once sang, it was all downhill from here for the Lady Jeeps —which dropped to 8-6 and 5-4 in the SOC II.
“We just got in a position where we were taking bad shots or committing turnovers when we really should have been working to get the ball in Skylar’s (Zimmerman) hands and let her be the playmaker,” said Dutiel.
For West, its point guard Emma Sayre scored eight first-half points on three twos and 2-of-3 second-quarter foul shots, while Elisha Andre added a first-quarter three and a fourth-quarter two —and Kate Rollins registered two baskets.
Lady Senator senior Sydney McDermott demonstrated a stat-stuffing performance, with three buckets, eight rebounds, five assists and three steals — the latter three categories of which were all team-highs.
“West has talent, along with experience, size and speed,” said Dutiel. “Their three guards can play anywhere in the county, or anywhere they want. They are really good and tonight they just shot the lights out. Every time I thought we were going to get a stop, they hit a big one right in our face. It was just one of those nights. I don’t think there’s anybody in this area that can handle them on a night where they shoot like they did tonight.”
Indeed, on Thursday, West was on a roll.
“These girls work hard in practice and we try to carry that over into every game,” said Coach Howell. “They are good athletes, but they also know that when you do good things on the basketball court defensively, usually good things happen on the offensive end.”
* * *
South Webster 19 8 5 11 —43
Portsmouth West 22 20 11 12—65
SOUTH WEBSTER 43 (8-6, 5-4 SOC II)
Cailee Blevins 0 0-0 0, Addi Claxon 6 0-0 16, Bella Claxon 0 1-2 1, Kerith Wright 3 0-0 8, Skylar Zimmerman 5 0-2 13, Riley Raynard 2 0-0 5, Kennedy Murphy 0 0-0 0; TOTALS 16 1-4 43; Three-point field goals: 10 (Addi Claxon 4, Skylar Zimmerman 3, Kerith Wright 2, Riley Raynard 1)
WEST 65 (11-1, 8-1 SOC II)
Maelynn Howell 7 0-0 14, Elisha Andre 2 0-0 5, Sydney McDermott 3 0-0 6, Kate Rollins 2 0-0 4, Emma Sayre 3 2-3 8, Lexi Deaver 7 0-0 15, Charlie Jo Howard 3 4-4 13, Rylee McDermott 0 0-0 0; TOTALS 27 6-7 65; Three-point field goals: 5 (Charlie Jo Howard 3, Elisha Andre and Lexi Deaver 1 apiece)