LOGAN — The stage, the stakes, and the significance of Friday’s Division III, Region 11 final made for an incredible environment at Logan High School’s Jim Myers Gymnasium.

In an all Southern Ohio Conference Division II Regional Final, it was the Wheelersburg Lady Pirates emerged with a 50-41 victory over Portsmouth West after the Lady Senators swept the season series during the regular season.

After taking an 11-10 lead on an Annie Coriell layup with 27 seconds left in the first quarter, the Lady Pirates never again surrendered their lead.

West tied the game twice at 13-13 in the second quarter and 30-30 in the fourth, but fell short in their bid of taking the decisive third meeting against state-bound ‘Burg.

For the Lady Pirates, it’s the program’s first ever regional championship and subsequent trip to the Division III state semifinals.

The Wheelersburg Lady Pirates celebrate the program’s first ever regional championship following their 50-41 win over Portsmouth West in the Division III, Region 11 final.

Courtesy of Joey Shupert, photojoeonline.com

“It’s memories for a lifetime,” Lady Pirates coach Dusty Spradlin said, after the game. “Our group that played, we still get together and reminisce. These kids are going to be able to do that. It’s a huge win for this program. Our kids aren’t shy from the moment, they’ve been apart of softball championships and our school’s been apart of football and baseball championships. It feels good to finally be able to break through.”

Not only is it the first regional championship for the Lady Pirate program — it breaks a 43-year drought for Scioto County girls programs of appearing at the state tournament.

The last to do so before Wheelersburg was the 1979-80 Clay Lady Panthers who won a Class A Regional Championship.

“For us it was just executing our game,” Wheelersburg senior Lexie Rucker said. “Coming into the game, we talked with Coach (Spradlin) about how being in the Regional Final was a position we wanted to be in again. For us to be the first Final Four team is insane. Really proud of all of us.”

West coach Larry Howell credited Wheelersburg for making it a half court game, whereas his team wanted to get out in transition.

“I felt like we kind of let the game get too big. We didn’t play our game — we wanted to get out in transition and run, they made it a half court game,” Howell said. “They’ve got seven seniors who wanted to win too and they’re well coached by Coach Spradlin. We played a half court game and didn’t make the plays we needed to, the shots we needed to.”

The first quarter featured six lead changes and three ties with the final lead change being after Coriell’s first quarter go-ahead layup.

The final tie at 30-30 came after a layup by West junior Emma Sayre cut the ‘Burg lead to two and a pair of free throws by senior Maelynn Howell.

Before the third quarter ended, Wheelersburg senior Macee Eaton knocked down her third of four three pointers — giving her Lady Pirates a 33-30 lead through 24 minutes.

Eaton knocked down a huge three pointer in the fourth to give ‘Burg a 41-36 lead with 1:26 left.

“I’m always going to shoot at least one three a game,” Eaton said. “If it went in I was going to keep shooting more, if not I was going to focus on something else. I’m really glad they went in so we could get this win.”

Wheelersburg senior Macee Eaton (32) scored a team-high 19 points during the Lady Pirates’ 50-41 win over Portsmouth West in the Region 11 Final.

Courtesy of Terry Stevenson, burgsports.com

In the final 1:26, the Lady Pirates went nine-of-10 at the foul line to put the game on ice and secure the program’s first trip to the final four.

Eaton finished with a team-high 19 points on five field goals and five-of-six foul shooting.

Rucker went seven-of-eight at the charity stripe in the win as part of her 15-point outing in the Region Final.

Wheelersburg senior Lexie Rucker (31) goes for layup while being guarded by West senior Charlie Jo Howard (23) duriong the Region 11 Final at Logan High School.

Courtesy of Terry Stevenson, burgsports.com

“Macee was huge tonight. She’s a kid that has been on the big stage, not scared of the moment. Nothing really phases her. And I thought Lexie was really big tonight. We let those two handle the ball for us to get Sayre off our point guard some.”

In total, seven different Lady Pirates entered the scoring column, including senior Madison Whittaker with five points, senior Makenna Walker with four points, senior Kiera Kennard with three points, and Coriell and senior Jocelyn Tilley who both finished with two points after first quarter field goals.

Whittaker’s lone three pointer was a big one as it extended the Lady Pirates lead back to two possessions at 30-26 with 2:55 left in the third.

An assist by Eaton to Walker for a layup in transition was the first field goal of the fourth as it gave ‘Burg a 35-30 lead with 4:50 left.

Walker went down with an injury earlier in the second half but later returned to the game to help her team secure its’ first trip to state.

“They injury was pretty bad at first, the intensity of the game kind of got my emotions. As I came back my dad talked to me, calmed me down told me that I’m letting the environment get the best of me,” Walker said. “So I slapped my knee brace on from the end of volleyball season because I knew this was a once in a lifetime opportunity.”

West was led in scoring by junior Emma Sayre who finished with a game-high 25 points.

West junior Emma Sayre (21) scored a game-high 25 points during the Region 11 Final at Jim Myers Gymnasium on Friday.

Courtesy of Joey Shupert, photojoeonline.com

Prior to Howell’s three pointer that cut Wheelersburg’s lead to two at 43-41 with 53 seconds left, Sayre was the lone Lady Senator who had more than one made field goal.

Her three with 2:20 left in the game that cut West’s deficit to 36-33 was the first Lady Senator field goal of the fourth quarter.

“Emma’s just a player,” Howell said. “Having her back, we’ll be alright next year. She’s smart, works hard and she’s a competitor. We don’t make it this far if she doesn’t play like she does.”

West will graduate five seniors from the team that just completed the best season in school history: Maelynn Howell, Lexi Deaver, Charlie Jo Howard, Sydney McDermott, and Elisha Andre.

Coach Larry Howell praised his players for their role in changing the history of Portsmouth West basketball and setting an example for their community.

The Division III, Region 11 runner-up Portsmouth West Lady Senators

Courtesy of Joey Shupert, photojoeonline.com

“I’m just so proud of these kids for what they’ve done in this community, for making West basketball a name. Winning a league championship, sectional and district championship and getting to the Regional Final for the first time ever. What they’ve done has made our program better,” Howell said. “I’ve seen letters from kids that say ‘When I grow up I want to be Charlie Jo, Kate Rollins, or Emma Sayre’. It’s not about one loss in the Regional Final, it’s about what they’ve done for this program and our school.”

One thing that surely neither side will forget was the unbelievable environment that both fan bases brought to Jim Myers Gymnasium.

The 1,800 capacity facility was jam-packed with Scioto County folks who made the trip to see these programs meet for a third time with everything at stake.

In such an environment, Coach Spradlin was required to whistle to get his players’ attention to be able to relay messages.

It’s something he said that began in the 2018-19 season when the Lady Pirates made their first ever Regional Final appearance.

“That kind of started with Abbie Kallner’s group in 2019. Coach Kaskey is always in my ear to go, go, go; I was always the one whistling to slow down and let’s possess the ball,” Spradlin said. “It (whistle) was something that got our girl’s attention. Those environments are tough, the timeouts you have to say the same thing to all five people because you can’t hear. It’s what a Regional Final should be. The whistle gets everybody to look at you so we can make sure we can communicate and our kids did a good job of passing on messages.”

Spradlin too praised West and Coach Howell for their historic season.

“I can’t say enough about Coach Howell and his kids, I hope I conveyed that message well to some of them as they left. They’re tough kids, gritty. They’ve had an outstanding season. Proud of our kids and I know Coach Howell is proud of his kids too.”

Wheelersburg will play the winner of the Region 12 Final in the state semifinals on Friday, March 10 at 11 a.m. at the University of Dayton Arena.

The Region 12 Final will be played between Columbus Africentric and Versailles on Saturday, March 4th at 1 p.m. at Springfield High School.

“To see my former players at the game tonight, all of those kids I’ve had have played a part in this program. To finally be able to hang a “2023” banner at Wheelersburg for a state tournament appearance will be special.”



Portsmouth West 10 9 11 11 — 41

Wheelersburg 11 10 12 17 — 50

Portsmouth West (25-2): Maelynn Howell 2 4-4 9, Elisha Andre 0 0-0 0, Sydney McDermott 0 0-0 0, Kate Rollins 0 0-0 0, Emma Sayre 9 5-6 25, Lexi Deaver 1 1-2 4, Charlie Jo Howard 1 0-0 3; TOTALS: 13 10-12 41; Three-point field goals: 5 (Emma Sayre 2, Maelynn Howell, Lexi Deaver, Charlie Jo Howard 1 apiece)

Wheelersburg (25-2): Mia Vastine 0 0-0 0, Madison Whittaker 2 0-0 5, Annie Coriell 1 0-0 2, Kiera Kennard 1 1-3 3, Jocelyn Tilley 1 0-0 2, Makenna Walker 1 2-2 4, Lexie Rucker 4 7-8 15, Macee Eaton 5 5-6 19; TOTALS: 15 15-19 50; Three-point field goals: 5 (Macee Eaton 4, Madison Whittaker 1 apiece)