WHEELERSBURG — In the fourth quarter of a game they once trailed in by 18 points, Waverly’s Zoiee Smith and Paige Carter did their darndest to bring the Tigers back from the dead.
But the hole they had dug themselves, especially against a team like Wheelersburg, proved to be too cavernous in the end. The beneficiaries of that statement were the Pirates, who led 40-22 near the end of the third quarter.
Despite being outscored 16-9 in the fourth, Wheelersburg held onto win a 49-40 decision in Southern Ohio Conference II action — the program’s third straight win.
“We gave up 16 points in the fourth quarter, which we don’t like,” Wheelersburg coach Dusty Spradlin said. “But I remember thinking we only gave up five in the second and eight in the third. So even though we weren’t converting on some of our opportunities, we were making it hard for them to do the same.”
That’s an understatement.
At one point, Waverly was just 8-of-41 shooting from the field. The Tigers also failed to hit a 3-point field goal, going 0-for-10 throughout the night from beyond the arc.
“We made it interesting at the end,” Waverly coach John Bonifield said. “But to be a great team in this league, we’ve got to find a way to clamp down better on defense and create a shot for a teammate, especially when we’re going through a scoring drought like we did tonight. When you don’t do that and you’re playing a great team like Wheelersburg, it becomes very difficult to win.”
Tale of the tape
Behind the hot shooting of Kaylee Darnell, who scored six points in the first eight minutes, Wheelersburg (4-2, 3-1 SOC II) took a 12-11 lead into the second quarter.
Darnell’s six points were coupled with Ellie Kallner’s four points and “hustle” plays.
“Kaylee came off a really good game Saturday where she shot the ball well,” Spradlin said. “I think that kind of carried over, that confidence. I thought Ellie Kallner did a nice job of being aggressive.”
Darnell dialed long distance for the first time with 4:37 left in the second, breaking a 14-14 tie. From that point until halftime, Waverly (3-2, 2-2 SOC II) managed to score just three points.
Thanks to that cold shooting spell, Wheelersburg walked into halftime with a 27-16 edge.
When the second half began, the Pirates picked up where they left off, stretching their lead to 39-21 with 4:41 left in the third before taking a 40-24 edge into the fourth.
But that’s when the scripts were flipped.
Riding Smith and Carter, the Tigers started to chip away at the lead.
With 2:50 left in regulation, Waverly trailed 43-30 after Smith and Kami Knight hit back-to-back jumpers. Meanwhile, Carter worked her tail off under the bucket to the tune of a game-high 21 rebounds alongside 14 points.
“The difference with Paige tonight was that she was so active,” Bonfield said. “She was aggressive, she was seeing the rebound and she was going and getting that rebound. She was in position and getting rebounds is about getting in position. We believe that rebounding is effort. Paige was giving out maximum effort tonight. The future is bright for her.”
Spradlin also noticed Carter’s efforts.
“In the first half, we seemed to get a lot of long offensive rebounds … more than we got in the second half. Defensively, we really struggled to try to clear that. That’s what we really have to work on,” he said. “We did a pretty good job defensively against a good offensive team. But we have to clear rebounds. That’s where [Waverly] really hurt us, especially in the second half.”
Still, Carter’s monster night on the glass wasn’t enough to overcome a sizable deficit.
“I think this is something we can build on and I think the one learning point is that we have to play for 32 minutes in this league. Playing for 20 isn’t good enough,” Bonfield said.
Smith finished with a game-high 20 points alongside four assists and was followed by Carter’s 15 point, 21 rebound night. Knight also chipped in, scoring five points and grabbing five boards.
For Wheelersburg, Abbie Kallner led the way with 17 points and nine rebounds while Darnell finished with 15 points and five rebounds. Ellie Kallner had 15 points and five boards, and Alaina Keeney ended a well-rounded night with eight points, nine rebounds and six assists.
What’s on tap
The Pirates will try and keep the engines running Thursday, traveling to Portsmouth West while Waverly attempts to bounce back the same evening, at Minford.
“I liked how hard we played and I liked our toughness tonight,” Spradlin said. “But we’re still learning. It’s a process. But Waverly is a good team. Our league is loaded. For us, we have some things to work on, but I feel like the best is yet to come.”
Waverly: 11-5-8-16 — 40
Wheelersburg: 12-15-13-9 — 49
Waverly: 14-57 FG, 12-22 FT, 0-10 3pt., 38 rebounds (Carter 21), 9 turnovers, 4 assists (Smith 3). Scoring: Smith 20, Carter 14, K. Knight 5, Collett 1.
Wheelersburg: 20-54 FG, 4-10 FT, 6-22 3pt., 37 rebounds (A. Kallner 9, Keeney 9), 12 turnovers, 10 assists (Keeney 6). Scoring: A. Kallner 17, Darnell 15, E. Kallner 10, Keeney 8.