West goes back-to-back


The West Lady Senators captured a Southeast District Division III girls basketball district championship on Saturday, defeating Federal Hocking by a score of 47-25 at Waverly’s Downtown Arena.

Ed Litteral | Daily Times

WAVERLY — Some say the first time might be accident, but the second time tends to be a trend.

For the West High School girls basketball team, all the Lady Senators are doing nowadays is winning league and district championships.

That’s because, for only the second time in school history but both coming consecutive, the Lady Senators are Southeast District Division III champions —given Saturday’s 47-25 runaway win over underdog Federal Hocking, inside Waverly’s historic Downtown Arena.

That’s right —West went back-to-back, as last season’s Lady Senators secured the program’s first-ever Southern Ohio Conference AND Southeast District titles.

This year, the third-seeded Lady Senators returned four seniors —but wasn’t expected to duplicate, or even come close to matching, a program-best 25 wins.

Well, that’s why they play the games, and spearheaded by five-foot and two-inch standout senior point guard Emma Sayre, West is right back in the regional semifinals —as the Lady Senators raised their stellar record to 21-3.

Keep in mind, also, that West’s only setbacks are a 39-37 buzzer-beater at SOC III co-champion Minford —and two losses against good Division II teams (Jackson and John Glenn), on neutral floors far away from West Portsmouth.

The Lady Senators, from Sayre to second-year West head coach Larry Howell, played the motivation card —and played it well as it turned out.

“It means everything to me and to everyone to be back-to-back district champs. It was really special last year, but I think this year it was even more special. Everyone doubted our abilities to be a strong team after losing five seniors. I am just really proud of our team for grinding day in and day out to accomplish this,” said Sayre. “Not many people get to experience what we have done, so I’m super thankful for it. It is really special to us seniors to have accomplished this together. We are all super-close and love each other and it was really great getting to make history together again.”

Howell, who won his 100th career game on Saturday as a basketball head coach, concurred.

He had 54 wins as the South Gallia boys bench boss, and now has 46 with West’s ladies.

“It’s definitely a different feeling. Those kids last year were hungry for that success. This group is different because nobody expected them to have this much success. They have worked their tails off,” said the coach. “I am really proud of our seniors bringing our freshmen along. They knew they needed their (freshmen) help, and their (senior) leadership is what has got us to this point. I am really proud of this team. I guaranteed we weren’t picked to go back to the regional. That tells you a lot about these kids’ character and their work ethic and their willingness to compete and want to win.”

Senior members of the 2023-24 Portsmouth West High School girls basketball team are, from left, Emma Sayre, Emily Moore, Kamryn Spriggs and Kate Rollins.

Paul Boggs | Daily Times

On Saturday, West won with lockdown defense —against the ninth-seeded yet young and good Lady Lancers (17-7).

They trailed just once, were tied 2-2 only two minutes and 20 seconds in, never trailed for the final 28 minutes and 35 seconds, pitched a second-stanza shutout in fact, and made the 22-point final margin their largest lead of the entire afternoon.

West won the first quarter 9-5, and the third 13-12 to lead 30-17, but it was the defensive gem pitched in the second period that made the biggest difference.

The Lady Lancers didn’t score again until a minute and 22 seconds had elapsed in the third, and by then, West was ahead at 19-5.

No doubt, defense does win championships —as the Lady Lancers shot just 2-of-18 in the entire first half for a paltry 11-percent.

Taylor Snedden and Kyndal Snedden had field goals, and Takira Walker split first-quarter free throws.

“We had a great scouting report, which I think played a big role in being able to shut them down. We knew almost everything they were going to throw at us. But more importantly, it came down to how bad we wanted it,” said Sayre. “Defense is about heart and our relentless effort proved we have that.”

Howell had praise for his star point guard —and his entire West club for gameplanning to defend.

Federal Hocking freshman point guard Brenlee Cottrill, the coach’s daughter and Lady Lancers’ top player at 15.5 points per game, scored just two third-quarter field goals.

“They do such a good job following a gameplan. We held a good offensive team today to five points in one half. None in the second quarter. It’s more of an awareness thing, and it helps to have Emma (Sayre) out there guarding, but it’s more of a team effort and that’s what they do. They buy into defense, rebounding and taking care of the ball. We know we’ll make enough shots to maybe win the game,” said Howell. “If you stay locked in on defense, you know you can’t lose the game. It will keep you in it.”

With West’s defense doing its job, the Lady Senators scored eight second-period points —and doubled up Federal Hocking 17-8 in the last to pull away.

Sayre scored a game-high 16 points —on five total field goals and 5-of-7 foul shots.

West senior Emma Sayre (21)

Ed Litteral | Daily Times

A Lady Lancer three-pointer got them to within 25-14 with two minutes left in the third, and capped seven unanswered Federal Hocking points, but Sayre slammed a door — by draining her only three-pointer on the ensuing possession.

“Emma come up with some big plays, her defensive effort on the (Brenlee) Cottrill girl was awesome, and she hit a big three right on top of them making one to stop a run,” said Howell.

Sayre — indeed — is the consummate playmaker, ballhandler, defender, rebounder and scorer.

“To me, I feel like one of my big roles has been to control the tempo of the game. I know when other teams get going, I have to make a play on both ends,” she said. “When Federal Hocking would take a run, I knew I had to step up and make big plays.”

So too did West’s freshmen tandem of Macy Whisman and Hailey Carver.

The six-foot forward Whisman went 6-of-6 from the field for a dozen points, and ripped down nine rebounds.

West freshman Macy Whisman (1)

Ed Litteral | Daily Times

Carver canned a pair of threes towards eight points —including her second for a 25-7 advantage with 2:08 to play in the second quarter.

West freshman Hailey Carver (22)

Ed Litteral | Daily Times

“Hailey (Carver) had a great game offensively and defensively, and has really grown so much over the season. Macy (Whisman) has had a lot of games lately with double figures in points and almost double figures for rebounds,” said Howell.

Emily Moore scored six points and grabbed seven rebounds, Katie Rollins had three points and three boards, and Adi Stephens scored a fourth-quarter cutting and driving bucket.

West senior Emily Moore (23)

Ed Litteral | Daily Times

Rollins, Moore and Kamryn Spriggs join Sayre as the Lady Senator senior quartet.

“This is just a happy-go-lucky group. They are smiling all the time and having fun. I have to be the grouchy one sometimes to get them locked back in, but they enjoy life, they enjoy sports, they enjoy competing and they love playing with each other,” said Howell. “I am blessed to have such a good group of seniors two years in a row.”

Indeed, those senior classes have spearheaded 46 of Howell’s now 100 career wins.

The milestone just happened to occur in a district championship game.

“Winning it (100th coaching win) with this being a district championship makes it more. Playing a team like Federal Hocking and playing for a district championship, you want it more for the kids than anything you’re going to accomplish. That’s what I wanted. And I don’t get 100 wins unless I have good players. That’s why you have success,” he said. “I’ve been blessed at South Gallia for the boys and now at West for the girls for having good groups of players.”

Speaking of good players, the 20-5 Portsmouth Lady Trojans have a handful.

And, the Lady Trojans lost in last season’s district title tilt —to these Lady Senators.

The two schools just miles apart play in Wednesday night’s Division III Region 11 semifinals —clear up in Logan High School’s Jim Myers Gymnasium, and in prime time at 8 p.m.

The Lady Trojans won their first district championship since 1985 on Saturday —barnstorming the Minford Lady Falcons 54-17 in another district final.

Minford and West shared the first-ever SOC III championship, so Howell knows exactly who and what Portsmouth has.

And, what must happen in order for the Lady Senators to return to the regional championship bout.

“We first have to take care of the basketball, then we have to do a really good job of guarding (Sienna) Allen and (Daysha) Reid. Definitely two of the best guards in our area, if not in the state. They are just a good, aggressive team that has really good players. We know we have our hands full, but we have a good group of kids that loves to compete. Hopefully, they go up there and cause a really good team some problems. Should be a really good game on Wednesday night,” said Howell. “If we can rebound, defend and take care of the ball —and play hard, play smart and play together —we’ve got a chance. As long as we do those things, we’ll be in the game at the end.”

As Sayre said, she doesn’t want Wednesday night to mark her final game in Orange and Black.

“Portsmouth is a really strong team. They transition well, and get people to turn the ball over. I think the biggest thing for us is to stay composed, lock in defensively, and do all of the little things right,” she explained. “None of us want this to be over, so it really motives us.”

* * *

Federal Hocking 5 0 12 8—25

Portsmouth West 9 8 13 17—47


Brenlee Cottrill 2 0-0 4, Addison Jackson 0 0-0 0, Wren Norris 0 0-0 0, Juniper Ballew 0 0-0 0, Hannah Lucas 0 0-0 0, Olivia Tabler 0 0-0 0, McKayla Nelson 1 0-0 2, Takira Walker 2 1-2 7, Rorie Tabler 2 0-0 6, Taylor Snedden 1 0-1 2, Audrey Clingenpeel 0 0-0 0, Ellie Needs 0 0-0 0, Ava Tolson 0 0-0 0, Kyndal Snedden 2 0-0 4; TOTALS 10 1-5 25; Three-point goals: 4 (Takira Walker and Rorie Tabler 2 apiece)

WEST 47 (21-3)

Macy Whisman 6 0-1 12, Allyson Buckner 0 0-0 0, Rileigh Miller 0 0-0 0, Adi Stephens 1 0-0 2, Kate Rollins 1 1-2 3, Kamryn Spriggs 0 0-0 0, Ava Potters 0 0-0 0, Emma Sayre 5 5-7 16, Hailey Carver 3 0-1 8, Emily Moore 3 0-2 6, Rylee McDermott 0 0-0 0; TOTALS 19 6-13 47; Three-point goals: 3 (Hailey Carver 2, Emma Sayre 1)

Reach Paul Boggs at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1926, by email at [email protected], or on X @paulboggssports © 2024 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved

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