The Wheelersburg Pirates girls basketball team picked up their first win of the season in their home opener against Oak Hill on Monday night.
Three players scored in double figures for Wheelersburg, as the Pirates defeated the Oaks 55-31.
“It’s nice to be at home and play in front of your home crowd,” Wheelersburg head coach Dusty Spradlin said. “We had two tough games on the road already with South Webster and Minford, and we followed up with Oak Hill who has a legendary coach who’s got all those wins.”
Playing against two of the top teams from the SOC in the Jeeps and the Falcons so far, the Pirates have been battle tested early as a young team.
“It’s good to get in the win column. It’s good to get a little confidence, I think it’s much needed for some of our kids.”
Wheelersburg was able to get out and run early, playing with a lot of energy on the defensive side of the ball. That was all a part of the plan according to Spradlin.
“We’ve got to play with some pace, because we’re not very big,” Spradlin said. “We’ve got to try and play with some pace and get the ball into the paint to get some of those kick outs.”
Leann Spradlin started the scoring for Wheelersburg with a triple. Spradlin would finish with nine points.
Early in the game, though, the Pirates had some issues containing Caitlyn Brisker. Brisker scored all nine points for the Oaks in the first quarter, but would only score 12 in the game.
Ellie Ruby set the tone for Wheelersburg to open the quarter on both sides of the court. The senior had several steals in the quarter, and racked up four points in the period.
Several other Pirates got in on the action to push Wheelersburg ahead 13-9 after one.
In the second frame, the Pirates really set the pace for what was to come in the next two quarters. Inspired by an incredible defensive effort, Wheelersburg would outscore Oak Hill 18-3 in the second quarter.
Ruby made a quick cut to the basket and drained a floater to start the second, putting the Pirates up 15-9. Bailey Ward answered with an and-one to make the score 15-12, but that was the last basket the Oaks would score for the final 7:23 of the quarter.
From there, Wheelersburg went on a 16-0 run before the break.
Abbie Kallner played a major part in that streak, at one point scoring seven straight for the Pirates.
“She got going a little offensively,” Spradlin said about Kallner. “She still hasn’t shot it maybe the way she would like to, but the difference is she’s drawn the best defender night in and night out.”
Kallner tied for a team high in scoring with 11 points.
Bella Williams ended the major run with just 25 seconds left in the half when she got an offensive board and a layup off the glass.
At halftime, Wheelersburg was up 31-12.
“They’re very solid, and do things the right way,” Spradlin said on Oak Hill. “Early, nothing was easy. They had a lead early, and our kids finally got it going and went on a nice little run.”
Things didn’t change for the Pirates in the second half.
In fact, Wheelersburg matched their output from the second quarter by posting 18 points in the third once again.
The Pirates led 49-24 after three, with seven points coming from freshman Kaylee Darnell in the third quarter.
“I thought she was more aggressive trying to get the ball in the paint, which can help get some other kids some touches,” Spradlin said.
In that third quarter, Darnell was patient and let the game come to her. She knocked down a three-pointer early, and got to the basket on her other two scores. Darnell would finish with 11 points.
While Wheelersburg’s defense wasn’t as sweltering as it had been the quarter before, the Pirates still had enough to claim a 25-point lead heading in to the last quarter.
Both teams struggled to find offense in the fourth, combining for just 13 points. When the final buzzer sounded, Wheelersburg was victorious by a count of 55-31.
It was the first win of the season for the Pirates, who will use this game to build on what’s still yet to come in this season.
“I told them after the two losses, our focus needs to be getting better every game,” Spradlin said. “I thought we were a little better in periods tonight, and we still have a lot of room for improvement.”
With a very young roster, getting better each night will be the motto for Wheelersburg the rest of the year.
“Good teams are going to continue to improve, and that’s what we want to be,” Spradlin said. “A good team.”
Of course, the younger players for the Pirates have been challenged early with a gauntlet of an opening schedule.
“Some of them were thrown into the fire with Webster, Minford, and Oak Hill,” Spradlin said. “Those are three of the top teams probably in our league.”
“You have to win home games in this league, and you’ve got to try and find some road games to steal.”
The difference in this game compared to the first two according to the head coach all comes down to composure and comfortability.
“I think we played a little more relaxed here, and I think we made a few more shots here than we did the first couple games,” Spradlin said. “We’re getting more comfortable with each other. We’ve got some of these freshman who are getting a little more comfortable with the speed of this varsity game.”
So far, the start might have been a little rough for the Pirates, but this win is something to build off.
“Year in and year out, our conference is very good,” Spradlin said. “You beat a team like Oak Hill, I’ll take the win.”
“I don’t care what year it is, I don’t care who they have, it’s a good win for us.”
Wheelersburg 13 18 18 6 – 55
Oak Hill 9 3 12 7 – 31
Oak Hill Scoring Leaders
Caitlyn Brisker: 12 points (all nine points in first quarter for Oaks)
Rileigh Swingle: 6 points
Bailey Ward: 5 points
Wheelersburg Scoring Leaders
Kalee Darnell: 11 points
Abbie Kallner: 11 points
Ellie Ruby: 10 points
Leann Spradlin: 9 points
Reach Benjamin Spicer at (502)264-7318 on Twitter @BSpicerPDT or at Facebook.com/ReporterBenSpicer