The Minford Lady Falcons hit a speed bump in their efforts to repeat as SOC II champions Thursday night by falling to the Wheelersburg Lady Pirates 41-35 in both teams first game of the young 2018-19 season.
“I told the girls, I don’t know how you could walk away and not be happy with that effort,” said Wheelersburg head coach Dusty Spradlin, “Both teams were sloppy, both teams had turnovers. Whether it’s first game jitters, I’ll say this: there was a lot of competing out there, a lot of physical bodies hitting bodies. I told them we have to be better with the ball, we have to take care of the ball.”
“You can’t come up here and spot them points like we did,” said Minford first year head coach Shane Davis, “I think it was 14-4 there at the end of the first quarter, I can’t remember. It was hard to watch. You can’t come up here and spot them. We knew they were going to be ready and they did what they were going to do, he’s (Spradlin) a good coach. We didn’t play well, I guess it was the overall shock. You can’t come here and spot them points, everyone in the county knows that. It’s a tough one.”
As Davis alluded to, the Lady Falcons got off to a very slow start by their standards. Wheelersburg jumped out to an 11-2 lead thanks to two Abbie Kallner threes as they ultimately won the first quarter 14-4 thanks to a number of forced Minford turnovers by the Lady Pirates quick, reactionary defense.
After their errant first quarter, it felt as if the Lady Falcons had settled in more to the style of play and were able to find more opportunities to score moving forward. Caitlyn Puckett led Minford with six points in the first half on the offensive end while Wheelersburg sophomore guard Kaylee Darnell was able to score 11 first half points to give the Lady Pirates an 11 point lead heading into halftime at 24-13.
After going scoreless in the first half, Minford center Ashley Blankenship found some footing in the third quarter, including a 7-0 run, all of which were attributed to her. The Lady Falcons outscored Wheelersburg 11-5 in the third quarter to narrow their deficit to 29-24 entering the final period.
In the end, thanks to clutch free throw shooting by senior Abbie Kallner and freshman Alaina Keeney, the Lady Pirates were able to seal the deal and knock off the defending SOC II champion Minford Lady Falcons 41-35 for their first win of the season.
The Lady Pirates were led in scoring by Darnell and Kallner who each finished with 13 points apiece, as well as Keeney, who in her first varsity game as a freshman, scored 11 points. Ellie Kallner, Abbie’s sister, also had a good game from her point guard position. Spradlin was proud of his younger girls and how they stepped up and contributed to their team’s win.
“She has the guard mentality (Keeney), she’s played a lot of guard. She’s a bigger body who can play kind of a stretch four for us, she’s able to knock down some shots. Stepped up and hit a few big free throws for us. The young kids, her, Kaylee (Darnell) and Ellie Kallner played very well… And I can’t say enough about Karlie Estep and Ryley Grant who came in and guarded Blankenship. Obviously, we’re not the biggest team around. We tried for as long as we could to surround her, and for the longest time we held her in check.”
Spradlin says that as pleased as he was with his team’s performance Thursday night and being able to knock off the defending conference champions, he hopes that moving forward into the rest of the season they’ll be able to improve in some areas offensively.
“We’re going up to Rio Grande to play Alexander, and our next opponent, Oak Hill, plays right before us,” said Spradlin, “So we’ll get to see them play, they’ll get to see us play, and then we go to Oak Hill on Monday. Big turnaround, but hopefully the girls will be excited to get more games in, come in tomorrow to try and get a little bit better and then try to go get another victory on Saturday.”
Minford was leading in scoring by Blankenship who had 16 second half points, and even though they had a poor first quarter, they were able to win the final three quarters against the Lady Pirates, 31-27. For Davis and his Lady Falcons team, there will be some work to do that will go into their next few practices leading up to their game against West next week.
“Ball handling, and working through an effective offense,” said Davis, “I don’t know how many times we ran our offense through, I’d be curious to go back through the film. Maybe two or three times in that first quarter especially. We’ll go back and regroup. Defensively, our close outs on shots weren’t there with how many open looks we gave. You can’t do that, they’re shooters. So I’d say we’ll be working on close outs and running our offense better.”
Reach Jacob Smith at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930, by email at [email protected], or on Twitter @JacobSmithPDT