SOUTH WEBSTER – Don’t look now, but the Portsmouth West Lady Senators are red-hot.
Winners of their last five games entering Thursday’s contest, West knew it would need a convincing performance to earn a road win over the host Lady Jeeps of South Webster.
On the backs of a balanced scoring effort, timely free throws, and a strong defensive performance, the Lady Senators (7-5, 3-4 SOC II) escaped South Webster (5-6, 4-3 SOC II) with a 58-56 win in regulation to claim their sixth-straight victory.
“So proud of our girls,” West coach Megan Artrip said after the win. “To be able to fight through the adversity there at the end, with these young kids, it’s really impressive.”
“Our comeback was a result of a better effort in the second half,” South Webster coach Ryan Dutiel said following the loss. “We came out flat and weren’t mentally ready ahead of the game. We dug ourselves a hole, got in foul trouble which limited what we could do towards the end.”
West led for the majority of Thursday’s game, including at every stop.
Leading 34-31 after three quarters of play, the Lady Senators needed eight more minutes of winning basketball to steal a road conference win over the Lady Jeeps.
South Webster was able to tie Thursday’s game 56-all after Bri Claxon went two-for-two at the foul line with 16.4 seconds to play, prompting West’s final offensive possession in which freshman Charlie Jo Howard sunk two go-ahead free throws, giving West a 58-56 lead with 11.0 seconds to play.
South Webster’s attempts at-the-rim wouldn’t connect as time ticked away, and the Lady Senators were able to narrowly prevail in the waning seconds.
Howard finished Thursday’s win with a team-high 13 points.
“Very proud of Charlie (Jo Howard),” Artrip said. “Didn’t hit some of the shots she’s used to hitting early in the game, but she played great defense for us, and when it counted, really stepped up and was able to hit those free throws.”
Morgan Rigsby scored 12 points and grabbed 13 rebounds, Eden Cline scored 10, Maelynn Howell and Abbi Pack scored seven apiece, Emily Sissel scored five, and Abby Adkins scored two in the West win.
In the first half, West forced 13 South Webster turnovers compared to their nine. The Lady Jeeps would finish Thursday’s loss with 19 turnovers (13 for West), and it was West’s ability to create offense from their turnovers in the first half which prompted their 26-17 halftime lead.
“Our defense has been really good, we’ve been pressuring the ball really well,” Artrip said. “We’ve been focusing on our fast break offense a lot, and that stems from defense and creating turnovers. Really taking a lot of pride in our defense so far this year.”
The catalysts behind the Lady Jeeps’ comeback attempt in the final stages were senior guard Kenzie Hornikel and sophomore guard Bri Claxon.
Hornikel scored South Webster’s first six points of the game after the Lady Jeeps started the contest trailing West 6-0, as well as scoring seven in the fourth quarter to lead all scorers with a game-high 17 points. Claxon scored a game-high 12 points in the fourth quarter as part of her 16 points for the game.
“Our comeback was really sparked by Kenzie (Hornikel),” Dutiel said. “Really proud of her effort, played her best game all year and she was outstanding.”
Baylee Cox scored 12, Rose Stephens and Faith Maloney scored four apiece, and Liz Shupert scored three for the Lady Jeeps.
After a 1-5 start, West has rattled off six straight wins by an average of 18.7 points per game including road conference wins over Valley (54-39) and Thursday’s win over South Webster. For comparison’s sake, the West girls program had nine wins in the last two seasons combined (2017-19).
The Lady Senators are 4-4 in conference play as of January 2nd, and with a back-loaded conference schedule ahead of them, have the chance to earn the program’s first double-digit winning season since 2012-13 if they’re able to keep up their level of play into the next month-and-a-half.
“They’re putting together what we’ve been doing in practice, believing in what we’re teaching,” Artrip said of her team. “And these girls are now going into games believing they can win each game, instead of going into each game with the mindset that they’re going to lose. They’re playing with confidence, which is really good to see.”
A road game at Oak Hill on Monday and a home game versus Waverly next Thursday will be the next tasks West will have to go through in hopes they’ll keep their streak alive one more week.
“We’ve got to just keep at it one practice, one game at a time,” Artrip said. “This conference is so tough, any night you step on the court is going to be a dog fight. We’ve been in every game we’ve played, we’re proud of that, hopefully we’re able to continue things in this direction.”
South Webster travels to Wheelersburg on Monday in SOC II play.
“I think our girls learned that we can’t wait till the second half to start playing with lots of intensity,” Dutiel said. “We’re going to get back in the gym tomorrow and get ready for ‘Burg on Monday.”
West 11 15 8 24 – 58
South Webster 6 13 12 25 – 56
West 58 (7-5, 4-4 SOC II)
Maelynn Howell 2 3-4 7, Abby Adkins 0 2-2 2, Eden Cline 3 2-2 10, Abbi Pack 2 2-2 7, Emily Sissel 2 0-1 5, Charlie Jo Howard 4 4-6 13, Morgan Rigsby 3 6-11 12, Keima Bennett 1 0-0 2; TOTALS 17 20-29 58; Three-point field goals: 5 (Cline 2, Howard, Sissel, Pack 1 apiece)
South Webster 56 (5-6, 4-3 SOC II)
Faith Maloney 2 0-0 4, Liz Shupert 1 0-0 3, Kenzie Hornikel 5 5-11 17, Rose Stephens 2 0-2 4, Baylee Cox 3 6-10 12, Bri Claxon 4 8-8 16, Brooklyn Blanton 0 0-0 0; TOTALS: 17 19-31 56; Three-point field goals: 3 (Hornikel 2, Shupert 1)
Reach Jacob Smith at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930, by email at [email protected], or on Twitter @JacobSmithPDT © 2020 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved