ROSEMOUNT — While early-season, non-league contests do have an impact on a team’s final record, in-game experience and finding those areas where you may need improvement is incredibly vital.
This is especially true in the coronavirus-impacted start to the 2020-21 girls basketball season.
In Northwest’s 53-21 season-opening victory against Clay, both coaching staffs and teams were able to get their eyes on how their team would perform in their first game with wins or losses on the line.
The Lady Mohawks took a 16-5 advantage at the end of the first quarter behind senior Valerie Copas’ three made threes and never looked back.
It was the Lady Panthers’ zone defense that prompted Northwest to fire away from behind the arc, connecting on seven made threes — three each for Copas and fellow senior Haidyn Wamsley.
Northwest — stretching the court — opened up the inside of Clay’s zone, allowing Copas and junior Audrey Knittel to connect on four two-point field-goal tries apiece.
“We knew they were going to run a zone against us, we’ve been trying to work on the outside shots to open up the inside shots,” Northwest coach Dave Frantz said after the win. “That was the key to the game — knock down a few of those, that loosened up the inside for some shots. Audrey Knittel scoring 11 in a great game for that young lady.”
Wamsley, Copas and senior Terah Webb each totaled the Lady Mohawks’ seven long-distance makes — as Webb’s came in the fourth quarter when Northwest outscored its hosts 10-0.
“The two of them played their roles where they have to be leaders, but they also brought along the younger girls too,” Frantz said. “Terah Webb, great effort and great attitude kid, and another four-year senior along with Val and Haidyn. I expect those girls to lead this team.”
Clay’s gameplan entering the game was to force Northwest to shoot those outside shots — and if they hit, they’d be okay with it.
In fact, despite a height advantage favoring its guests, Clay limited Northwest’s rebounding margin to 38-23 with the Lady Mohawks adding to that figure more so in the game’s latter stages.
“I think we did a great job defensively,” Lady Panthers coach Scott Artis said. “When you hold a team like that to 53 points, that’s a win for us. We were worried about them inside, they’re a really athletic team and much taller than us. They’re a great team and we knew we’d have some challenges on both ends. Forced them to shoot some shots, kept them out of the paint as much as we could.”
“I thought Clay did a nice job with their hustle underneath,” Frantz said. “I wasn’t pleased with some of our rebounding where we’d turn and look at the basket instead of finding someone and putting a body on them. We tried to fix it as we went on and it did get better, still stuff to work on.”
Clay was led in scoring by senior Katherine Cochran, who scored all of her team-high 13 points during the second and third quarters.
Cochran accounted for three of the Lady Panthers’ five three-point makes, while McKenzie Loper and Shaley Munion hit one three apiece.
“They’re a great defensive team, too. Their ball pressure was excellent and that throws us out of our rhythm,” Artis said. “I think our girls learned a lot today. Even though you take the loss on the chin, ultimately I think it’s a step forward for us.”
Following the season-opening win, Northwest was scheduled to host Oak Hill on Monday (Nov. 23) in its Southern Ohio Conference Division II opener — but due to COVID-19 concerns that contest was postponed.
Instead, Northwest will next play in its SOC II opener on Monday, Nov. 30 when it will welcome Eastern.
Clay did seek its first win of the season on Monday (Nov. 23) in a road trip at Adena.
* * *
Northwest 16 13 14 10 — 53
Clay 5 7 9 0 — 21
NORTHWEST 53 (1-0)
Terah Webb 1 0-0 3, Valerie Copas 7 2-5 19, Harley Rigsby 0 0-0 0, Haidyn Wamsley 6 0-0 15, Daria Compton 1 0-0 2, Faith Jewett 1 0-0 2, Reagan Lewis 0 0-0 0, Audrey Knittel 4 3-4 11, Kloe Montgomery 0 1-2 1; TOTALS: 20 6-11 53; Three-point field goals: 7 (Valerie Copas and Haidyn Wamsley 3 apiece, Terah Webb 1)
CLAY 21 (0-1)
Shaley Munion 1 0-0 3, McKenzie Loper 1 0-0 3, Sophia Gatti 0 0-0 0, Katherine Cochran 5 0-0 13, Megan Bazler 0 0-0 0, Tabby Whitt 1 0-2 2, Kyleigh Oliver 0 0-0 0; TOTALS: 8 0-2 21; Three-point field goals: 5 (Katherine Cochran 3, Shaley Munion and McKenzie Loper 1 apiece)