WEST PORTSMOUTH — Seven is a lucky number.
However, the Minford Lady Falcons don’t need luck — because they have plenty of skill to go along with a group of players who give 100 percent every time out.
Erin Daniels’ 14 points, Ashley Blankenship’s 11 tallies, Makenzie Watters’ 10, Livi Shonkwiler’s nine, Caitlyn Puckett’s seven, and Marissa Risner’s six led an incredibly balanced and effective scoring attack as Minford improved its overall record to a 7-0 mark with a 68-25 victory over the West Lady Senators’ girls basketball program on Saturday evening in West Portsmouth to move to 7-0 in as many games to start the year.
For Scott Caudill, it was an impressive showing from start to finish for his Lady Falcons.
“We wanted to control the tempo and reduce our turnovers,” Caudill said. “Tonight was a nice night to work on our offensive sets and our defensive exchanges, and the girls did a nice job of doing that while staying disciplined. It was a great team win tonight. It’s hard to play on Saturdays. That’s one thing that we wanted to focus on was coming in and making sure that we’re ready to play on Saturday. The girls did a nice job.”
As for Jason Claytor, West performed as well as expected considering the limited depth that it has as far as competing with a team of Minford’s size.
“The fact that we competed with them for as long as we did was great,” Claytor said. “Even though the score got out of hand, I felt that we were playing hard and we were competing. We’re definitely not happy with the result, but we competed as long as we could, and that’s all I can ask.”
Within the first five seconds of the contest, Risner wasted no time burying an open trey from the left wing, and from there, Minford was off and running behind the efforts of Risner, Daniels, and Blankenship, who combined to score each of the Lady Falcons’ first 20 points in the affair as the Lady Falcons jumped out to a 24-6 lead during the opening quarter of play.
“All three of them were fantastic,” Caudill said. “They’re hitting, they’re shooting, and they’re playing well. Risner’s shooting the ball well, and when she does that, we’re a different team. Erin’s really clicking right now and she’s shooting the ball really well, and Ashley is just playing really smart basketball. The girls did a good job of finding the open man and hitting shots.”
“Scott’s got a good team,” Claytor said. “They can shoot it, and they’ve got 6-3 (Ashley Blankenship) inside, which makes them a pain to guard. It doesn’t matter how you guard them. You can man them or you can zone them, but eventually, they’ll find your weakness because they’re that good.”
In the second quarter of action, West, behind its heady play on the defensive end and its ability to attack in transition, got going as the Lady Senators scored nine of the first 10 points in the frame. Jordyn Swords collected five points in the second frame, and the energy of Makayla White and Morgan Rigsby was evident on both ends of the floor as West closed to within 10, 25-15, with 4:30 to play in the first half. White scored a team-high 10 points, while Rigsby, Swords, and Madison Compton combined for the remaining 15 tallies.
“I thought that Makayla played her best game of the year,” Claytor said. “She shot the ball well, attacked well, and played under control. It’s tough for her because each defender on the floor is trying to stop her, but I thought that she played really well. As for Morgan, she rebounded well, she had five or six blocked shots, and she made the hustle plays that she always finds herself doing. I was very happy with her. In general, we played hard. We just got to get better and continue the process in order to do so, but first, we’ve got to get healthy, get better, and develop a full strength of people in order to see what can happen.”
But even though Minford faced its fair share of struggles with turnovers, Caitlyn Puckett proved to be a calming presence for the Lady Falcons in the frame as Puckett — who did a little bit of everything in the backcourt and the frontcourt areas — scored three points in the quarter and got Minford into an offense that allowed Daniels to score a basket with two seconds remaining in the half to put the Lady Falcons back up by 15, 31-16, at halftime.
“We can’t take away the unstatable things that Caitlyn does for us,” Caudill said. “She’s just a hard-charger who makes things happen.”
In the third quarter, Minford’s present stars gave way to its future standouts as freshman lynchpin Livi Shonkwiler showed off her abilities in fine fashion by scoring seven straight points behind her energy and quickness. The Lady Falcons ultimately used that production, along with five points from Daniels, to obtain a 47-20 lead before making mass substitutions.
“Livi’s a youngster that we’re really excited about,” Caudill said. “Her energy, her quickness, and her ability to handle the basketball are tremendous. She needed a day like today, and we’re really happy with her. This is her best night of the season. We’re really proud of her. She played the top of the 1-3-1 (zone defense), and she really did a nice job putting on ball pressure and stopping ball reversal. That led to a lot of transition points for her. She did a really nice job. I was really pleased with Livi. She’s only going to continue to get better.”
“There were spurts where I thought that we played well,” Claytor said. “We executed well. Like I’ve said a few times before, we are not as deep tonight as we normally are, and we normally don’t have much depth. We just got worn down in the second half. When you look at their starters alone, they’ve got four kids who are as tall or taller than my tallest kid. The physicality wore on us, and we just got beat and banged. I thought that the girls played hard over the entire game.”
Even with his main rotation of players done for the evening, Caudill’s backups continued to show off their own impressive skillset as Makenzie Watters’ eight fourth-quarter points, along with five combined tallies from Marissa Watters and Zoe Doll, four points from Hannah Thacker, and two points from Maddie Slusher, set the tone for a 19-2 game-ending run.
“All of those girls can play basketball, and all of those girls are very good shooters,” Caudill said. “I’m really proud of those girls. They work their butts off, and it’s just nice to give them the opportunity to play. It was good seeing Marissa Watters and Zoe Doll hit some shots. Those are two of my seniors, and they’ve been very productive in practice for us.”
With the victory, Minford, who also moved to 6-0 in SOC II action with the win, will begin preparing for South Webster on Monday evening. The Lady Falcons can keep the conference lead with a win on Monday evening, while a loss will give South Webster the lead via a head-to-head tiebreak.
“South Webster’s a very good basketball team,” Caudill said. “They’re well-coached, and they’ve got some good role players. It’s going to be a nice matchup. I’ll be honest — we have focused on every single game. We have not looked ahead yet. We’ll have a film session tomorrow, we’ll have a shootaround, and we’ll start focusing on South Webster as a whole (on Sunday).”
As for West, the Lady Senators, who fell to 2-4 overall and in SOC II play with the loss, will have a chance to rebound on Monday evening when West plays host to Waverly (4-5, 2-4 SOC II) on Monday evening.
“Waverly’s a winnable game for us, but it’s a game that we’ve got to come to play in,” Claytor said. “Zoiee Smith has been putting up some monster numbers. I got a chance to watch them play Portsmouth (on Wednesday), so I’ve got some info on them. If we can contain Smith, and (Morgan) Wiseman, who is shooting the basketball very well, we can get a win.