LUCASVILLE — They say that defense always travels.
All Wheelersburg’s defense had to do, on Saturday anyway, was take the scenic and speedy Scioto County bypass —that’s Ohio Route 823 to those out-of-towners —to Valley High School.
From there, the second-seeded Lady Pirates caged the Chesapeake Lady Panthers for just 21 points through the opening three quarters — en route to capturing their seventh consecutive Division III sectional championship with a 51-37 victory.
While Wheelersburg wasn’t shooting the ball well after almost an entire week layoff, making only two three-point goals on 19 total tries, the Lady Pirates pitched a gem on the defensive end of the court.
The Lady Pirates did score the first 11 markers, but in allowing only nine first-period Panther points, they set the table for the middle two quarters at least —in which Wheelersburg surrendered only six points in each.
By the end of the third frame, the Lady Pirates had doubled up the Panthers 42-21, as their 23-point advantage (45-21) after Lyndsay Heimbach hit a bucket stood as their largest lead.
All Chesapeake posted in the second stanza was 4-of-6 free throws from junior Maddie Ward, and a Kandace Pauley basket that made it 15-12 at the four-and-a-half minute mark.
Emily Duncan scored two Panther field goals in the third, as Ward went 2-of-4 at the foul line, but Chesapeake was never within four points over the final 20 minutes and 22 seconds.
Wheelersburg, in fact, went off for 20 third-period points, including seven from junior standout Kaylee Darnell, who was the only Pirate player in double figures with a team-high 17 points.
With the win, the Pirates made it seven straight sectional titles —and improved to 21-2 with a Southern Ohio Conference Division II makeup matchup at South Webster on Tuesday.
More importantly, though, the Lady Pirates — in another sectional bout in which they were considered a considerable favorite —punched their ticket to the next tournament tilt.
Wheelersburg will now play seventh-seeded and now 20-4 North Adams in Saturday’s Division III district tournament, as that semifinal is set for high noon on Saturday (Feb. 22) inside Waverly’s historic Downtown Arena.
It’s, of course, by winning seven straight sectionals — is a home away from home for the Lady Pirates.
“It’s another win and another championship and another chance for us to move forward and play in Waverly again,” said Wheelersburg coach Dusty Spradlin.
Indeed, expect the Lady Pirate defense to travel up Route 23, but hopefully for Wheelersburg this time, its shooting will be along for the ride.
The Lady Pirates shot 17-of-53 from the field for 32-percent, but glaringly made only two three-pointers on 19 attempts for 10.5-percent.
When Wheelersburg shot just 3-of-20 from distance at Ironton on Dec. 30, the Lady Pirates suffered one of their two defeats —but got away with it against 18th-seeded Chesapeake, which ended its season at 11-13.
The Lady Pirates played the Panthers for their third game in the regular season, and stymied Chesapeake to only 27 points in that meeting —while scoring 51 again themselves.
“It honestly wasn’t pretty a lot of times, and a lot of times we were stagnant offensively. We did not shoot the ball real well. They played a box-and-one on Kaylee (Darnell). We’ve got to knock down some of those shots and play with a little more energy. But we did push the lead up over 20, and it’s still a good win,” said Spradlin. “When you don’t shoot well, you have to guard in the half court and in the full court. I thought we guarded fairly well, trying to speed them up with a couple of different presses in that first quarter.”
On Saturday, Wheelersburg —after amassing the first 33 points against winless Wellston in last Sunday’s semifinal win —raced out for the opening 11 points against the Panthers in the first four minutes and 24 seconds.
Blake Anderson, at the 3:14 mark of the first quarter, got the Panthers on the board with a free throw — as Ward scored twice along with an Anderson basket to slice the Chesapeake deficit down to four (13-9).
Ward then split a pair of free throws for a 13-10 margin, but a Darnell layup, an Alaina Keeney rebound putback, two Ellie Kallner freebies, a Darnell free-throw split and another Keeney basket over a four-minute and 40-second stretch gave the Lady Pirates some breathing room at 22-13.
For the final 22-and-a-half minutes, Chesapeake was never within single digits, although with Ward remaining in the game against the Lady Pirate reserve players, she scored 14 of her game-high 24, including all three of hers and the Lady Panthers’ threes.
All 15 of the Lady Pirates on the roster played, as Darnell dropped in six field goals and 5-of-6 free throws to lead the way.
Keeney followed with nine points on four field goals and a split of first-quarter foul shots, as Kallner converted a first-quarter deuce and a trey along with 3-of-4 free throws for eight points.
Makenna Walker, with a two and a three in the third and 2-of-4 freebies, scored seven — as fellow freshman Macee Eaton added 4-of-6 free throws.
Heimbach in the fourth, Lauren Jolly in the third and Isabella Hamilton in the fourth rounded out the scoring with a field goal apiece.
Wheelersburg ripped down 41 rebounds, including a massive 18 offensive, as the Orange and Black only committed seven turnovers — with four of those coming among the mass fourth-quarter substitutions.
In a tournament game, playing reserve players is a positive sign for the winning team, but fully expect the Pirates to stick with their regular eight or nine-person rotation against the taller Green Devils.
“We’re going to have our hands full with North Adams. They gave (Division III Southeast District top seed and 22-1) Eastern Brown their lone loss and played right with Eastern Brown both games. They maybe could have won both of those games, but they are big inside with (six-foot, one-inch) DeLaney Harper and they have some other length around her,” explained Spradlin. “It’s going to be a real challenge for us to rebound the basketball, we’re going to have to guard a lot better, and we’re going to play probably against some zone so we’re obviously going to have to shoot the ball a lot better. Tournament time is always about matchups. People are going to like our guard play, but they have a lot of size that we have to contend with. It will be interesting to see how the game flow goes against somebody that big.”
But, at least expect the Lady Pirate defense to travel.
* * *
Chesapeake 9 6 6 16 — 37
Wheelersburg 13 9 20 9 — 51
CHESAPEAKE 37 (11-13)
Kandace Pauley 2 0-0 4, Taylor Hicks 0 0-0 0, Blake Anderson 2 1-4 5, Sammie McComas 0 0-0 0, Robin Isaacs 0 0-0 0, Maddie Ward 7 7-12 24, Emily Duncan 2 0-0 4; TOTALS 13 8-16 37; Three-point goals: 3 (Maddie Ward 3)
WHEELERSBURG 51 (21-2)
Annie Coriell 0 0-0 0, Lauren Jolly 1 0-2 2, Madison Whittaker 0 0-0 0, Brittani Wolfenbarker 0 0-0 0, Lani Irwin 0 0-0 0, Alaina Keeney 4 1-2 9, Isabella Hamilton 1 0-0 2, Ellie Kallner 2 3-4 8, Kaylee Darnell 6 5-6 17, Lyndsay Heimbach 1 0-0 2, Makenna Walker 2 2-4 7, Kiera Kennard 0 0-1 0, Lexie Rucker 0 0-0 0, Macee Eaton 0 4-6 4; TOTALS 17 15-25 51; Three-point goals: 2 (Ellie Kallner and Makenna Walker 1 apiece)
Reach Paul Boggs at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1926, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @BoggsSports © 2020 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved