LOGAN — The adversity that the Portsmouth West Lady Senators faced on Wednesday in Jim Myers Gymnasium would have been too much for most teams to overcome.

These Lady Senators are not most teams, though, as they once again proved their resillency with their season on the line.

Trailing a previously unbeaten North Adams team by 10 with under six minutes left and later by seven with 2:17 left, West made the gritty, necessary plays to pull off a stunning comeback and reach their first ever regional final with a 52-51 win.

An ecstatic Lady Senators coach Larry Howell called his players, “freaking relentless” — an appropriate moniker for their efforts in their Region 11 semifinal victory.

“It’s probably the best high school game I’ve been apart of,” Howell said. “I’ve been coaching boys and girls since ‘95-96. These kids are just freaking relentless. These seniors kept challenging each other, ‘Let’s make a play’. Defensively we got out of our half court man, pressed and it seemed to bother them. I’m speechless, speechless about these kids. They kept fighting and making plays when they needed to. These fans got their money’s worth tonight.”

West led by as many as nine points (23-14) in the first half and took a six-point lead into the halftime locker room.

North Adams responded with a stellar third quarter, outscoring the Lady Senators 22-9 in the frame and having their largest lead at 42-32 with 5:53 left in the fourth.

From that moment on, West would use its defense and some big time shots to outscore NA 20-9 over the final 5:53.

In the fourth quarter alone thanks to their full court pressure, the Lady Senators forced 11 Lady Devil turnovers — none bigger than a pair of Charlie Jo Howard steals in a 10-second span and one by junior Emma Sayre in the final 10 seconds.

Howard, after sinking a three that touched every part of the rim before falling to cut West’s deficit to four (50-46) with 2:15 left, had the wherewithal to anticipate and intercept NA’s inbound pass for a layup to make it a two-point game.

West senior Charlie Jo Howard (23) sinks one of her game-high three three pointers during the Lady Senators 52-51 win over North Adams in a D-III, Region 11 semifinal at Logan High School.

Jacob Smith | Daily Times

The Lady Devils got the ball in on their next inbound attempt, but Howard knocked it out of Kenlie Jones’ hands and into Sayre’s.

Sayre was fouled on the play and in the single bonus sank both her free throws to tie the game at 50-50 with exactly 2:00 left.

“We don’t work on pressing very much, we don’t have much depth so we don’t want to extend the floor. We challenged them with six minutes to go they’ve got to give it all your effort and that’s what they did,” Howell said. “They made plays when they needed to. Got some steals.”

Jones eventually gave North Adams the lead for the final time, going 1-of-2 at the line in the final minute.

Following a jump ball that awarded possession to NA with 9.6 seconds left, Marlee Brand attempted a pass to Jones that Sayre jumped to pick off, keeping the ball the whole way to the basket and scoring the game-winner with 3.5 seconds remaining.

West junior Emma Sayre (21) led the Lady Senators with 17 points and hit the game-winning layup with 3.5 seconds left during their 52-51 win over North Adams in a D-III, Region 11 semifinal.

Jacob Smith | Daily Times

Brand’s attempt at a game winning heave from beyond mid-court hit off the backboard and iron, sealing the West win and sending the Lady Senators into a frenzy.

“I was more of a fan at the time. They’re making the plays, Charlie we challenged her at halftime to shoot the three. That shot she hit was amazing,” Howell said. “Emma Sayre is Emma Sayre. She’s had laryngitis all week, been sick since the game Saturday. It just tells you the kind of competitor she is. She messaged this morning and said she was going to be alright, and you see how she performed.”

“We knew that we had a lot of fight left in us,” Sayre said. “We knew it was going to be the hardest two and a half minutes we were ever going to have to play. All the stuff that coach puts us through in practice, we have the ability to force turnovers and that’s what we did.”

Sayre’s game-winning bucket made her the game’s leading scorer, finishing with 17 points on six field goals and four-of-six foul shooting.

As a team, West was 15-of-21 at the foul line with senior Maelynn Howell responsible for nearly half of those charity stripe conversions.

Howell finished with 15 points on four field goals and seven-of-nine foul shooting to go along with 10 rebounds.

Coach Larry Howell called Maelynn Howell’s effort on the glass a turning point in their comeback.

“We just kept telling her, ‘Mae, they can’t handle you. Keep rebounding.’ I believe that’s what turned the game around; she’s relentless on the boards,” Howell said. “Her effort and energy got us extra possessions and buckets, it’s what you need when you’re down like we were.”

West senior Maelynn Howell (1) went seven-of-nine at the free throw line while scoring 15 points and grabbing 10 rebounds in the Lady Senators 52-51 win over North Adams in a Division III, Region 11 semifinal.

Jacob Smith | Daily Times

“The last couple of games I haven’t been shooting the best, I knew I needed to help my team in another way,” Maelynn Howell said. “Been working really hard the last few games on rebounding and today it all came together.”

Howard finished with 11 points, Lexi Deaver had seven and Kate Rollins two to round out West’s scoring.

North Adams was led by Keetyn Hupp’s team-high 14 points. The Lady Devils as a team shot 9-of-14 from the foul line and 8-of-14 from three.

With West’s one-point victory, they advance to the Division III, Region 11 Final for a third meeting with Southern Ohio Conference Division II rival Wheelersburg.

The Lady Pirates defeated Belmont Union Local — the defending Region 11 champions — 49-47 in the first Region 11 semifinal earlier Wednesday. It was a rematch of their meeting at the same stage last year.

West (25-1) swept the season series over ‘Burg (24-2) in the regular season — earning a 52-40 win at Wheelersburg on Dec. 8 and winning 55-46 at home on Jan. 19.

This one is for all the marbles, however, as the SOC II and Scioto County are guaranteed a girls basketball regional champion and state tournament participant for the first time in 43 years.

The last and only team to stake that claim so was the 1979-80 Clay Lady Panthers who won the Class A Kettering Regional.

“I think some team from Scioto County is going to state this year,” Howell said, with a smile. “What better chance for these kids to get to go to state than to play your rival? I’m excited for them. Thought Wheelersburg did a great job in their game against Union Local earlier. We already know the opponent, not as much film scouting. Our kids know each other and I guarantee it’s going to be a battle out there on Friday night.”



Portsmouth West 12 11 9 20 — 52

North Adams 9 8 22 12 — 51

Portsmouth West (25-1): Maelynn Howell 4 7-9 15, Elisha Andre 0 0-0 0, Sydney McDermott 0 0-0 0, Kate Rollins 1 0-0 2, Emma Sayre 6 4-6 17, Lexi Deaver 1 4-6 7, Charlie Jo Howard 4 0-0 11; TOTALS: 16 15-21 52; Three-point field goals: 5 (Charlie Jo Howard 3, Lexi Deaver, Emma Sayre 1 apiece)

North Adams (25-1): McKenna Shelton 0 0-0 0, Tatum Grooms 1 1-2 3, Karlie Kennedy 0 0-0 0, Brea Stout 0 0-0 0, Katelyn Boerger 4 1-3 9, Keetyn Hupp 4 4-5 14, Laney Ruckel 4 2-2 12, Harlee Brand 2 0-0 6, Kenlie Jones 2 1-2 7; TOTALS: 17 9-14 51; Three-point field goals: 8 (Keetyn Hupp, Laney Ruckel, Harlee Brand, Kenlie Jones 2 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