JACKSON — The result may not necessarily reflect this fact, but the future is certainly bright for girls basketball on the ‘West Side’.
The No. 20-seeded Lady Senators of Portsmouth West fell to the No. 13 Fairland Lady Dragons 53-48 in a Division III sectional semifinal on Wednesday at Jackson High School — but that sentence relays just half the story.
West — seeking its first girls basketball postseason win since 2015 and its first sectional title since 2013 — went toe-to-toe with one of the best programs in the Southeast District, Fairland, before ultimately falling to the higher-seeded Lady Dragons.
In fact, the Lady Senators — attempting to snap Fairland’s streak of eight consecutive sectional titles under head coach Jon Buchanan — led the Lady Dragons for the vast majority of Wednesday’s sectional semifinal loss.
However, the more-experienced postseason team found a way to win despite taking multiple punches and trailing by double digits in the first half — as a result of first-year coach Megan Artrip’s Lady Senators’ play.
After combining to score just nine first-half points while West held onto its 27-18 halftime lead, Fairland senior guards Harlie Lyons and Jenna Stone torched the nets at Jackson High School for 25 of the Lady Dragons’ 37 second-half points en route to their eventual five-point win.
“We knew they would start hitting some shots and at that point we’d have to go man-to man,” Artrip said following the loss. “They just kept hitting, they started setting some double screens and getting their shooters open. They started hitting and we weren’t at the end.”
West would establish its lead with its zone defense and accompanying defensive rotations — forcing Fairland to shoot just 5-of-28 from the field in the first half.
The Lady Senators’ lead grew to as large as 14 during the first half when sophomore Eden Cline connected on a bucket to give West a 26-12 lead. In fact, the Lady Dragons didn’t score a second-quarter point until there was 1:20 left.
“Our defensive intensity was key to start,” Artrip said. “We pushed the ball up the floor; we were doing the things that we knew we needed to do to be in the game. We hit some shots, high-percentage shots for us and forced them to shoot shots they weren’t making.”
Charlie Jo Howard scored 10 of her team-high 17 points during the first half as the Lady Senators established their early lead. Abbi Pack was huge in West’s attempt to hold off Fairland’s comeback — scoring nine of her 13 points in the second half.
Abby Adkins and Howard were the lone two West players to go perfect at the free-throw line, combining to shoot 10-for-10, while the remaining Lady Senators shot just seven-for-22 in their free-throw attempts.
It’s a loss, but Wednesday’s game — and the Lady Senators’ season as a whole — is reflective on the fact that all things girls basketball on the ‘West Side’ are heading in the right direction under Artrip.
After finishing 3-19 a season ago with a 38-point loss to Lynchburg-Clay in their sectional semifinal game, Artrip and this year’s Lady Senators’ team improved their record to 10-12 with a 5-1 record in non-league play — and an SOC II resume that includes two wins over South Webster and a road win over Valley.
“To think of where they came from at the beginning of the season, in the first game, to fighting with a team like Fairland that can shoot from anywhere on the whole court,” Artrip said. “I was just so proud of them. There were times at the beginning of the season where they would have quit, and there was no quit in them tonight.”
West still must play its final regular-season game on Monday (Feb. 17) versus Oak Hill after the previously-scheduled game was postponed during ‘Flu Week 2020’.
Monday’s game versus Oak Hill will also be Senior Night for three Lady Senators — Pack, Morgan Rigsby and Emily Sissel — who Artrip says became leaders during her first season as coach.
“My seniors became leaders, and that’s something this program has lacked — someone for these young girls to follow in their footsteps,” Artrip said. “I have three seniors; I’m so proud of them, and I wish I could have gotten them for a couple more years.”
Ports. West 14 13 11 10 — 48
Fairland 12 6 13 22 — 53
WEST 48 (10-12)
Maelynn Howell 0 0-0 0, Abby Adkins 2 4-4 8, Eden Cline 1 2-3 4, Haley Coleman 0 1-2 1, Abbi Pack 4 3-7 13, Emily Sissel 0 0-2 0, Charlie Jo Howard 5 6-6 17, Morgan Rigsby 2 1-8 5, Keima Bennett 0 0-0 0; TOTALS: 14 17-32 48; Three-point field goals: 3 (Abbi Pack 2, Charlie Jo Howard 1)
FAIRLAND 53 (13-10)
Emma Marshall 1 1-2 4, Harlie Lyons 4 5-8 17, Bailey Roland 2 1-3 5, Jessica King 0 0-0 0, Tomi Hinkle 2 4-4 9, Jenna Stone 5 3-4 17, Miaa Howard 0 1-3 1, Kirsten Orsbon 0 0-0 0; TOTALS: 14 15-24 53; Three-point field goals: 10 (Harlie Lyons and Jenna Stone 4 apiece, Tomi Hinkle and Emma Marshall 1 apiece)
Reach Jacob Smith at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @JacobSmithPDT © 2020 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved