MCDERMOTT — Senior Nights, for any school, are always special to behold considering the kinds of sacrifices that the seniors who are being honored at that particular team have made for not only the program that they represent, but for their entire school.
However, Thursday evening’s was certainly one to remember on the campus of Northwest High School — and will certainly be remembered as fondly as any around.
It began with the honoring of two unselfish seniors in Abby Baer and Magen McClurg, who have used their positive personalities to spearhead the growth of Dave Frantz’s Northwest Mohawks’ girls basketball program. And it ended with a resounding Northwest victory, which came behind the pair’s 15 combined tallies and the play of talented youngsters Valerie Eury, Haidyn Wamsley, and Keirah Potts, who combined for 23 points on their own as the Lady Mohawks were able to claim a 51-10 victory over the East Tartans’ girls basketball program in a nonconference battle between the two programs.
For Frantz, the contest’s overall result was simply the epitome of what Baer and McClurg have brought to the table as the leaders of a young Northwest squad that — with three victories in its last four affairs — is beginning to grow up right in front of Frantz’s very eyes.
“It was awesome,” Frantz said. “Abby and Magen are two four-year seniors with no jealousy in their body. They’re not even two of the leading scorers on the team, but they’ll still feed the ball to the younger girls, they are team players all along, and they are here for the team. I could not brag more on two kids than those two seniors. The leadership that they have shown is great. As a young team, we’ve gone through a lot of growing pains, and these two have been so vital to this program from the standpoint of leadership.”
From the time that Potts drilled a 15-foot jumper from the left baseline within the first 30 seconds of the contest, the affair proved to be all Northwest as the Lady Mohawks scored each of the contest’s first 12 points. The veteran leadership of Baer and McClurg, combined with the beyond-their-years youth of Eury, Potts, and Wamsley, shut East completely off of the scoreboard over the first 4:56 as Northwest ultimately took a 12-0 lead.
That lead — a secure margin in its own right — eventually ballooned to a 19-2 margin by the end of the first quarter as the ability of McClurg and Wamsley to turn defense into offense with their play in the passing lanes, along with Potts’ effectiveness in the low post, carried Northwest seamlessly through the frame as the trio combined for 17 of the Mohawks’ 19 points. Baer’s low-post basket to end the frame allowed Northwest to obtain the aforementioned advantage as the Mohawks put four of their five starters in the scoring column by the end of the frame, while Eury added her initial basket just two minutes into the second quarter as all five starters remained involved throughout the affair.
“If you look at our scoring leaders for the year, our leading scorer is Valerie Eury, who averages about nine a game,” Frantz said. “(Keirah) Potts has seven or eight, (Haidyn) Wamsley has seven or eight, and Abby’s right there. We try to not let a team focus on one person, and have really spread the offense around. That’s very unselfish play by the kids. It’s all about the team. There are no I’s on this team, and that’s what makes them so fun to work with.”
With Frantz subbing freely in an effort to get all of his girls solid minutes and to keep from running the score up on the Lady Tartans, open opportunities became available for players such as Lexi Throckmorton and Makayla Boehm, and the pair wasted no time making an impact as Throckmorton used her gritty play to score the quarter’s first four points, while Boehm knocked down a pair of jumpers from the right side of the floor as Northwest increased its lead to 29-4.
East, as it did in the opening quarter of action, held its own on the rebounding column behind the pair of Ali Escamilla, Victoria Escamilla, and Shayla Rosenogle, and obtained excellent free throw shooting from Hailen Steele — who nailed all four of her free throws behind a strong shooting stroke from the charity stripe — en route to putting up a fight. However, the Lady Tartans could only trim the lead to a 29-6 margin by the halftime break despite the efforts of the quartet.
“That was one thing that we wanted to do tonight,” Frantz said of mixing and matching different rotations. “We have South Webster in a makeup game on Saturday, and Kristie (Johnson) always brings in a good team, and does a nice job. Then, we have Chillicothe Huntington next week (in a Division III Sectional Semifinal). Due to a couple of injuries to Ellie Curtis and Sydnie Jenkins, we’re going to need extra production from some of these other girls. Boe did a great job coming in, and she and Throck put up some good points and played well. Everybody that stepped on the court contributed to the win tonight.”
In the second half, Northwest’s young talent began to shine as Eury got going in the third frame. The freshman not only scored six points in the quarter, but led a Lady Mohawks’ defense that held East scoreless over the first 7:29 of the quarter before Ali Escamilla connected on a shot after grabbing a rebound inside. Escamilla, along with Rosenogle, obtained additional open looks behind effective passing from East’s four-out offense, but the Lady Mohawks, on the vast majority of East’s offensive possessions, cleaned up the boards after just one look as Northwest extended its lead to a 40-8 tally.
“We’re playing good at the right time,” Frantz said. “With this team, we have grown so much, and again, that goes back to the leadership of Abby and Magen. They have taken the young girls under their wing, and I can’t say enough about the young girls. I’m proud of them and the work that they have put in. This has to be one of the hardest working teams that I’ve ever coached, and I’ve been coaching 30 years in a multitude of sports. This group is also one of the most fun to be around because of that work ethic and their attitudes,” Frantz said. “They all get along and there’s no jealousy or drama there. They’re just great kids.”
And in the fourth quarter, that was on display as Eury, Potts, and Wamsley each made their impact on the quarter. The trio, in fact, combined for 11 of Northwest’s 22 points in the second half of action as the Lady Mohawks continued to increase its lead all the way to the final buzzer behind the production of its two freshman guards and Potts — the latter of whom producing over 40 blocks in just five starts this season. Eury and Potts finished with eight points apiece while Wamsley obtained seven tallies in her own right.
“Haidyn’s second or third in scoring, second or third in rebounds, has the most steals, and has the most assists,” Frantz said. “She leads this team in just about every offensive and defensive category, and as far as tonight was concerned, it was the least amount of minutes that she’s played in a game all year. She has played over 100 minutes more than any other kid on the team because the girl never gets tired. She works and she’s a three-sport athlete. Just wait until track this year. There’s going to be a lot of heads that will be turning. Valerie is another three-sport athlete. She’s the toughest kid on the team. She’ll go up and get a rebound. You can’t phase her. Then, of course, when you have a girl the size of Keirah Potts that can handle the ball and dribble the ball up the court, it’s always a luxury. She has really come on as the year’s gone on. I couldn’t be more proud of my youth.”
However, there may not have been a more fitting end to Senior Night at Northwest than how Baer and McClurg departed the court.
With their final game in Mohawk Country coming to a close and time winding down in the contest, the pair nailed back-to-back shots about a minute apart — and then exited to a standing ovation from the crowd in attendance. Baer exited first and greeted Frantz with a big hug, as did McClurg — with the latter shot giving McClurg a game-high 11 points to fittingly lead Northwest in scoring. Baer, who sung a rousing rendition of The Star-Spangled Banner before the opening whistle, added four points of her own.
“You’re not going to find more quality kids than we have here at Northwest,” Frantz said. “I’m not trying to put any other school down, but we just have tremendous kids. Abby and Magen are in that category. The presence that they have brought to this team, with their leadership and unselfishness, is undeniable. I always joke with their parents, ‘If you ever want to kick them out, I’ll adopt them in a minute, and my wife will help raise them the rest of the way.’ They are just Class A people.”
Class A people that will soar long after their Northwest High School tenure comes to an end in May.
Northwest, who improved to 6-13 overall, will finish its regular season on Saturday evening when the Lady Mohawks host South Webster in a girls basketball contest at 2 p.m. in what will be the final SOC I bout for both squads. East, meanwhile, will prepare for its Division IV Sectional Semifinal affair against SOC I rival Western on Wednesday evening at 8 p.m.
Reach Kevin Colley at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930 OR on Twitter @KColleyPDT