WEST PORTSMOUTH — Thursday’s post-game moments were days, months, and years in the making for the Portsmouth West girls basketball program.
Following the Lady Senators’ 42-31 home win over Waverly in a Southern Ohio Conference Division II contest, the now 19-1 West girls clinched at-least a share of the program’s first SOC II title. They’ll go for the outright championship on Monday at Minford.
“I’m so proud of these kids — they’ve been working for this for years. We’ve had team dinners, this year I’ve gotten to know them a lot better. Knowing how much basketball they’ve played and work they’ve put in, they deserve this,” West coach Larry Howell said, after the game. “They’re great kids who work hard on and off the court. The SOC was our first goal, and we knew we had to go through Wheelersburg who had a 62-game winning streak in the league and had won the league four-straight years. These kids are relentless. I throw new stuff at them in practice each day and they keep focused. I’m blessed to be their coach.”
Their five seniors — Maelynn Howell, Lexi Deaver, Charlie Jo Howard, Elisha Andre, and Sydney McDermott — discussed following their celebration how it felt making history for their program, school, and themselves.
“It feels great,” Howell said. “We worked really hard to get this point, and we’re excited to continue and go far in the tournaments.”
“I think not only this season have we worked hard, but we’ve worked our whole lives for this moment,” Deaver said. “It started in eighth grade when we beat ‘Burg and won an SOC championship back then. We’ve been working ever since then and building on top of that. It feels amazing — I mean, I cried ugly tears.”
“It’s a bittersweet moment for me,” Howard said. “We’ve worked for this all year — I’m proud to be where we are.”
“I’m really excited to win this,” Andre said. “We’ve worked our whole life for tonight; it just feels really great.”
“It’s an indescribable feeling when you’ve worked your whole life for something and to see it finally pay off,” McDermott said. “And to make history for the school. It’s indescribable.”
West led wire-to-wire in their 11-point win over the Lady Tigers, which also avenged an early season 55-49 loss at Waverly back on Dec. 15.
They led by as many as 16 points (34-18) in the third quarter — a period that ultimately helped create enough separation to determine the final outcome with a 14-4 margin.
“We played really well tonight,” Howell said. “We knew Waverly was going to come in and play us really tough. They’re the only blemish on our record right now, and Vulgamore’s just a match up nightmare. But we locked in on defense and we were able to get pretty good shots when we needed to on offense.”
The Lady Senators controlled the glass in a dominant way, winning the rebounding margin 31-16.
Howell scored a team-high 13 points and grabbed 15 of their 31 boards, several of which created extra offensive possessions.
Deaver and Howard each knocked down a pair of three pointers in the win, scoring nine and eight points, respectively.
Junior Kate Rollins and Andre sank a three apiece, combining for eight points and contributing solid minutes off-the-bench.
“The worst thing to do against a zone is to let them set up all the time,” Howells aid. “We thought if we can get offensive rebounds we can get extra possessions, and we didn’t want to give them extra possessions. We wanted to get the ball out and run. The only way you can do that is get stops, get the rebound and push the ball up the floor and that’s what we did.”
Howell said he was pleased with his team’s defense and offensive pace with a championship on the line as well. After all, that will be the case as the Lady Senators make their postseason push next month in tournament play.
Waverly was led in scoring by Bailey Vulgamore’s 15 points and Kelli Stewart’s nine points.
“We came in at halftime and knew they were going to stay in their zone. Knew we needed to lock down on defense and just execute on offense,” Howell said. “Everything we were running was working, we just weren’t making shots in the first half. You see that ball go in the hole and gets contagious. We could have run up and down, but it was a tournament basketball atmosphere and I thought we adjusted well to that.”
West will have its’ Senior Night festivities on Saturday when they host Greenup County (Ky.) in their home regular season finale. The Lady Senators won a tight 54-47 contest in Lloyd back on Nov. 29.
Next week, they’ll go for an outright SOC II title on Monday at Minford. In their first meeting, the Lady Senators came away with a 37-27 victory.
“It’s only going to get tougher. Every game from here on out is going to be tougher, and we’ve got to keep practicing and improving. We know Greenup’s going to be a tough one because they gave us a good game the first time, and Minford’s playing good basketball. And then we need to carry our toughness, ability to play good defense and take care of the basketball. That’s tournament basketball.”
Waverly 6 10 4 11 — 31
Portsmouth West 16 4 14 8 — 42
Waverly: Kelli Stewart 4 1-2 9, Shelby Blanton 0 0-0 0, Caris Risner 2 0-1 4, Morgan Crabtree 0 0-0 0, Bailey Vulgamore 4 6-6 15, Aerian Tackett 0 0-0 0, Sadie Royster 0 0-0 0, Paige O’Bryant 1 0-0 3; TOTALS: 12 7-9 31; Three-point field goals: 2 (Bailey Vulgamore and Paige O’Bryant 1 apiece)
Portsmouth West (19-1, 14-1 SOC II): Maelynn Howell 6 1-2 13, Sydney McDermott 1 0-0 2, Emma Sayre 1 0-1 2, Lexi Deaver 3 1-3 9, Charlie Jo Howard 3 0-0 8, Kate Rollins 2 0-0 5, Elisha Andre 1 0-0 3; TOTALS: 17 2-6 42; Three-point field goals: 6 (Lexi Deaver and Charlie Jo Howard 2 apiece, Kate Rollins and Elisha Andre 1 apiece)
Reach Jacob Smith at (740) 370-0713 ext. 1930, by email at [email protected], or on Twitter @JacobSmithPDT © 2023 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved