WEST PORTSMOUTH — Charlie Jo Howard, the Portsmouth West freshman and the smallest player on the floor on Saturday, came up big — both beginning and end against Gallia Academy.
That’s because Howard hit three three-pointers early, and sank 6-of-8 free throws late, amassing a team-high 17 points in leading the Lady Senators to a 54-41 fending off of the visiting Blue Angels in a non-league matinee.
The Lady Senators are a young squad still learning how to win consistently, and their depth took a definite hit, as it was learned on Saturday that freshman point guard Lexi Deaver is out — perhaps for the entire season — with an injured knee.
But the Lady Senators scored a key victory and overcame adversity, erupting for 37 first-half points on the strength of seven three-point goals — but having to hang on after scoring only seven points through the opening 12-and-a-half minutes of the second half.
The like-youthful Blue Angels erased a 22-point (39-17) deficit just 45 seconds into the third quarter to only seven (46-39) with only 2:56 remaining — but Howard, after missing the front ends of a one-and-one bonus situation, hit the final six free throws she attempted as part of the double bonus.
Those six straight freebies offset a Preslee Reed field goal for Gallia Academy and made it 52-41, as Eden Cline canned a pair of free throws with a dozen seconds left for the 54-41 final.
With the victory, the Lady Senators raised their record to 2-5, while the Blue Angels are winless still at 0-6.
Indeed, it was a tale of two halves, as first-year West head coach Megan Artrip alluded to the fact that her Lady Senators are still undergoing learning experiences.
“We’ve really been focusing in practice on shooting. I think that showed today. In the second half, we have to realize that when we aren’t hitting to do something different. We rushed our offense, so we weren’t getting good sets or looks at the basket. When we rush things, they don’t go well for us. That’s the tale of two halves,” she said. “The first half we didn’t rush, the second half we did.”
Howard had 17 on four total field goals on her 6-of-8 fourth-quarter free throws, as her three threes — along with one by Abby Adkins — turned a 23-15 Lady Senator advantage at the 5:13 mark (of second quarter) into a 37-17 cushion at halftime.
Morgan Rigsby, who followed Howard with 14 points on six field goals and 2-of-3 free throws, actually got the Senators started — dropping in seven first-quarter points including a game-opening old-fashioned three-point play just a minute and 27 seconds in.
Abbie Pack popped a three-pointer and Cline connected for two treys, as West scored the opening nine points prior to Maddy Petro posting the Blue Angels’ initial points on a basket at the five-minute mark.
The Senators maintained nine-point advantages in the first half of 9-0, 11-2, 16-7, 18-9, 20-11 and 22-13 — as Keima Bennett, who added eight points on four baskets, had a pair of putback buckets in that surge.
Pack’s free throw made it 23-13, as only baskets by Alex Barnes near the beginning (7:22) and end of the quarter (51 seconds) — combined with a pair of Petro free throws (5:13) — accounted for the only Blue Angel points of the entire second stanza.
Rigsby then made it 39-17 with another field goal — which was West’s largest lead.
It was also the beginning of the Blue Angels’ comeback bid — behind Barnes and Petro.
Barnes netted nine and Petro eight in the first half for all 17 Gallia Academy points, as Barnes (seven FT attempts) and Petro (nine FT attempts) — on six field goals and six made freebies apiece — tossed in 19 and 18 points respectively.
Two Barnes baskets made it 39-21 at the 5:05 mark of the third, followed by five straight Petro points and a split of foul shots by Barnes to make it 40-28 exactly three minutes and 15 seconds later — and with the Blue Angels in the bonus for the final 9:50.
But baskets by Rigsby and Howard stopped the Gallia Academy charge momentarily, and Bennett’s third rebound stickback pushed the West lead to 10 at 46-36 with three-and-a-half minutes left.
The Blue Angels got to within seven points twice at 46-39 (at 2:56) and 48-41 (at 1:55) a minute apart, but Howard hit her six free throws to put the contest on ice on a rainy Saturday outside.
“We’ve struggled with free throws this year, so it was nice to see us make more (11) than we missed (five) today,” said Artrip.
Besides Barnes and Petro, the only other Angel to score was Reed with four fourth-quarter points on a field goal and 2-of-4 free throws, but she was whistled for a critical carry turnover call with GAHS trailing 46-39.
Barnes, on the club’s only triple and a rebound putback, got Gallia Academy to within five (11-5) and six (13-7) early on, but the Blue Angels never got closer the remainder of the way.
Artrip said Saturday’s win was important for her young Lady Senator squad, not just because of the youth learning to win, but overcoming on-court obstacles in doing so.
“It’s great to see us overcome adversity. We made seven threes and had a big lead then they got it back to seven points, then we started slowing things down and doing what we do well with making free throws today too,” she said.
The Lady Senators return to Southern Ohio Conference Division II action on Monday night when they visit Valley.
* * *
Gallia Academy 11 6 15 13 — 41
Portsmouth West 18 19 7 10— 54
GALLIA ACADEMY 41 (0-6)
Chanee Cremeans 0 0-2 0, Asia Griffin 0 0-0 0, Alex Barnes 6 6-7 19, Maddy Petro 6 6-9 18, Regan Wilcoxon 0 0-0 0, Preslee Reed 1 2-4 4, Koren Truance 0 0-0 0; TOTALS 13 14-20 41; Three-point goals: 1 (Alex Barnes 1)
PORTSMOUTH WEST 54 (2-5)
Maelynn Howell 0 0-0 0, Abby Adkins 1 0-0 3, Eden Cline 2 2-2 8, Haley Coleman 0 0-0 0, Abbie Pack 1 1-2 4, Charlie Jo Howard 4 6-8 17, Morgan Rigsby 6 2-3 14, Keima Bennett 4 0-1 8; TOTALS 18 11-16 54; Three-point goals: 7 (Charlie Jo Howard 3, Eden Cline 2, Abby Adkins and Abbie Pack 1 apiece)
Reach Paul Boggs at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1926, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @BoggsSports © 2019 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved