LUCASVILLE — In the third quarter of Thursday’s Division III sectional semifinal at Valley High School, Wheelersburg caught lightning in a bottle.
After taking a 21-12 lead over Adena into halftime, the Pirates (19-4) returned to the floor and proceeded to score 26 points while shooting a putrid 6-of-9 from beyond the 3-point arc. The nine-point lead quickly turned into a 30-point lead advantage at 42-12 and ‘Burg advanced with a 61-28 win.
The Warriors, as expected, used a zone defense to try and halt the Pirates’ offense. But when Wheelersburg shoots like it did in the second half … well, there isn’t a defensive game plan that exists for that type of crisis.
“We’ve played against a lot of zone this year so we expected that,” Wheelersburg coach Dusty Spradlin said. “But a lot of it is energy for us and it’s on the defensive end. I didn’t feel like we had great defensive energy in the first half. We played past it. But I thought we missed some opportunities and played a little tentative. But in the second half, we were a lot better.”
Senior Abbie Kallner led that second half effort by hitting four 3’s. She ended the game with seven triples altogether.
When one shot falls, confidence is built. Then, it’s an avalanche.
“We have to keep ourselves confident,” Kallner said. “That’s important moving forward. When one of us are hitting, we’re all hitting. It’s kind of our thing. So we have to keep each other up, keep positive with each other and go from there.”
Kallner’s running mate was none other than sophomore Kaylee Darnell. The two scorers combined for 41 points and nine 3-point field goals in the victory.
Darnell scored Wheleersburg’s first six points out of the gate and 10 in the third quarter.
“Kaylee has made a lot of strides towards becoming that real complete player,” Spradlin said. “She effects the game defensively, she rebounds the ball well and shooting the ball, she’s worked on that a ton. I like where she’s at offensively.”
Tale of the tape
Throughout the entirety of the first half, Adena (6-16) hung right with the No. 3 seeded Pirates.
Kaylee Darnell scored at the 5:46 and 5:21 marks in the first quarter to give Wheelersburg a 4-2 lead before scoring again to make it 6-4 with 1:18 left. Kallner then hit her first 3, stretching the lead to 9-4 with 51.2 seconds left. But Adena’s Hannah Stark answered with a 3 of her own before Cheyenne Ater tied the game with a putback.
Kallner then hit a second 3, just before the buzzer sounded, making it 12-9 Pirates after one.
In the second, the Pirates’ defense played better but their offense dipped in production. Alaina Keeney scored four in the quarter while Darnell added a bucket, extending the lead to 18-12. Kallner then drilled yet another triple at the buzzer, putting the Pirates up 21-12 at halftime.
But after the break, Wheelersburg looked more like the team fans have watched all year long.
“Honestly, we got screamed at,” Kallner said, laughing. “Coach told us, he said, ‘You guys are not doing your job.’ On defense and on offense, we weren’t doing our jobs. So he told us that he kind of expected more out of us. So we came out and played like we needed to play. It showed.”
Behind Darnell and Kallner, who scored a combined 21 points in the third quarter alone, the Pirates pulled away. Using a 21-0 run to start the third, Wheelersburg had a 42-12 lead with 1:13 left before the fourth.
Abbie Kallner led all scorers with 23 points alongside four rebounds and three assists while Darnell added 18 points of her own, as well as a team-high five rebounds and three assists.
The Warriors were paced by Jenna Martin’s eight points and six rebounds while Stark finished the night with eight points, four rebounds and three assists.
What’s on tap
The Pirates advance to a Division III sectional final at 6:15 p.m., back at Valley High School, where they’ll face another Scioto Valley Conference team in Huntington Ross.
“We have to put things together for 32 minutes and cut out those dead periods,” Spradlin said. “That’s especially in the tournament because everything’s magnified in the tournament. We just have to make sure we put four quarters together moving forward.”
Adena: 9-3-5-11 — 28
Wheelersburg: 12-9-26-14 — 61
Adena: 11- FG, 3-6 FT, 3-9 3pt. (Stark 2), 20 rebounds (Ater 7), 20 turnovers, 5 assists (Stark 3). Scoring: Stark 8, Martin 8, Smith 6, Ater 4, French 2.
Wheelersburg: 24-47 FG, 2-2 FT, 11-23 3pt. (A. Kallner 7), 18 rebounds (Darnell 5), 8 turnovers, 14 assists (A. Kallner 3, Darnell 3). Scoring: A. Kallner 23, Darnell 18, Keeney 6, Grant 4, E. Kallner 3, Jolly 3, Heimbach 2, Hamilton 2.