WEST PORTSMOUTH — There’s no such thing as an “off” night in Southern Ohio Conference Division II girls basketball.
Scioto County’s six teams in the larger SOC division played either their 10th or 11th league game on Thursday, as each team’s conference and regular-season schedules come screechng to a halt by the end of the first week of February.
The Wheelersburg Lady Pirates know this more so than anyone.
With just six games remaining in conference, while holding onto a half-game lead in the SOC II race, the Lady Pirates continued their unbeaten start in league play with a 55-38 road win over the Portsmouth West Lady Senators to improve to 13-1 overall (10-0 SOC II).
The bye each team receives as a result of Eastern joining the SOC II is why the Lady Pirates hold just a half-game lead rather than a full-game lead in the SOC II standings over second-place Northwest (15-1, 10-1 SOC II).
With the loss, the Lady Senators fall to 8-8 (3-7 SOC II) with six games to play in their regular season schedule — after completing their non-league slate of games with a 5-1 record.
“We have a one-game lead in a really tough conference,” Wheelersburg coach Dusty Spradlin said following Thursday’s 17-point win over West. “I think our kids know that any given night, everyone’s going to be ready to play us. As we move forward, we want consistency. We didn’t shoot the ball as well tonight as we have in some of our games, but those things happen, and you have to find ways to still be effective offensively… We want to make sure we’re making steps to get better every day.”
Neither team would begin scoring in Thursday’s contest until West senior Morgan Rigsby connected on a field goal to give her Lady Senators a 2-0 lead at the 5:10 mark of the first quarter.
Over the latter half of the quarter, Wheelersburg’s defense helped carry the Lady Pirates to a 20-12 lead after Makenna Walker’s made-field goal ended the frame on an 11-2 Lady Pirates’ scoring run.
At halftime, Spradlin’s group had forced 13 Lady Senator turnovers (unofficial) to hold a 31-21 lead at the break. After the Lady Pirates took a 29-12 lead off an Ellie Kallner two, West would finish the quarter on a 9-2 run to make it 31-21 Wheelersburg at the half.
Kallner scored 14 of her 16 points in the first half with 12 coming in the first quarter alone.
“We have a lot of capabilities because we have so many bodies and kids who can guard on the ball,” Spradlin said of Wheelersburg’s defense. “I thought we did a really job at times of extending the floor, forcing them into tough shots. I thought they (West) made some tough shots after we went on that big run to end the first quarter.”
Defense must have been a halftime focus of Spradlin’s, because when the two teams returned to action in the third quarter, the Lady Pirates posted their best defensive quarter of the night, outscoring the Lady Senators 16-6 in the third.
Wheelersburg junior Kaylee Darnell scored 10 of her game-high 19 points in the third quarter as the Lady Pirates extended their lead to a 20-point margin and, by game’s end, held onto a 17-point win.
“Pleased with pieces of the win, but there were some moments where we kind of let our guard down a little bit,” Spradlin said. “Give West credit, they fought and made us work for it. Pretty happy with the way our kids played overall because we were able to play a lot of kids, which is a good sign.”
Reminder — there are no “off’ nights in the SOC II.
After earning Thursday’s win over the Lady Senators to improve to 13-1, Wheelersburg must now prepare to host Oak Hill on Monday and Northwest on Thursday of next week with conference race implications at every turn.
Then, to finish out the regular season, Wheelersburg hits the road for five of its final six games in trips to face Greenup County (Ky.), Minford, Waverly and South Webster — and a game against Russell (Ky.) in the Tackett’s Body Shop Shootout hosted by Ironton. Senior Night versus Eastern on February 3rd rounds out the Lady Pirates’ daunting close to the regular season.
“The Ironton loss helped us, showed us some things we need to work on,” Spradlin said. “We’re trying to develop our bench even more so we make sure we have that depth come tournament time.”
West will travel to Northwest on Monday as it continues its SOC II schedule before postseason play begins in just over three weeks.
Wheelersburg 20 11 16 8 — 55
West 12 9 6 11 — 38
Wheelersburg 55 (13-1, 10-0 SOC II)
Lauren Jolly 0 0-0 0, Madison Whitaker 0 0-0 0, Brittani Wolfenbarker 0 0-0 0, Lani Irwin 0 0-0 0, Alaina Keeney 5 2-2 14, Ellie Kallner 5 4-4 16, Kaylee Darnell 8 1-5 19, Makenna Walker 2 1-2 6, Kiera Kennard 0 0-0 0, Lexie Rucker 0 0-0 0, Macee Eaton 0 0-0 0; TOTALS: 20 8-13 55; Three-point field goals: 7 (Alaina Keeney, Kaylee Darnell and Ellie Kallner 2 apiece, Makenna Walker 1)
West 38 (8-8, 3-7 SOC II)
Maelynn Howell 0 0-0 0, Abby Adkins 0 0-0 0, Haley Coleman 4 0-0 8, Abbi Pack 1 3-4 6, Emily Sissel 1 0-1 2, Charlie Jo Howard 2 1-2 6, Morgan Rigsby 5 0-0 10, Keima Bennett 3 0-0 6; TOTALS: 16 4-7 38; Three-point field goals: 2 (Charlie Jo Howard and Abbi Pack 1 apiece)
Reach Jacob Smith at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930, by email at email@example.com, or on Twitter @JacobSmithPDT © 2020 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved