McARTHUR — Perhaps the Lady Pirates need to stop scheduling games, or at least on the road against quality clubs, on the date of Dec. 30.
That’s because, for the second consecutive season on that particular date, Wheelersburg fell on the road — and suffered their first defeat of the season.
Last season it was at Ironton, and on a rainy Wednesday night this year it was at Vinton County —as the Lady Pirates trailed for the game’s final 30-and-a-half minutes en route to a 63-45 non-league defeat inside the ‘McArthur Mansion’.
And, indeed, basketball is rich right now in Vinton County —especially for the undefeated and now 7-0 Division II stronghold Lady Vikings.
The loss was Wheelersburg’s first of the season in five games, as the Lady Pirates are a power player themselves in Division III.
The two teams have faced off against each other over the past three seasons —with the home squad defending the home court by now at least 18 points each time.
On Wednesday, Wheelersburg was playing just its first game in nine days —and only its second since Dec. 7.
The Lady Pirates, along with a couple of their scheduled opponents, ran into a coronavirus quarantine —thus resulting in essentially an empty December schedule.
Wheelersburg was expected to be a bit rusty, although it didn’t help that the offensive-oriented Lady Vikings pitched one of their better defensive gyms.
Kaylee Darnell did give the Lady Pirates their only lead just 38 seconds in, but Lacie Williams would immediately answer from the corner with one of Vinton County’s eight three-point goals — and the Lady Vikings never trailed again.
In fact, Vinton County answered Darnell’s basket with 11 unanswered points, as the Maroon and White staked a 15-7 advantage after the opening quarter —and pretty much never looked back.
For the perimeter-oriented Pirates, they shot 45-percent (17-of-38) from the field, but it sure didn’t feel that way early on.
Wheelersburg was 6-of-16 from three-point range, but the only of the seven-point first period was a Madison Whittaker trifecta, which stopped the Vikings’ 11-0 run at the 1:40 mark.
Wheelersburg coach Dusty Spradlin said shooting rust from few games by New Year’s Day wasn’t an excuse he was interested in using.
Rather, he credited the Lady Vikings’ zone defense, which covered the Lady Pirates well width-wise — and constantly communicated in the process of shading shooters and shutting off driving and passing lanes.
“To some degree it (lack of games) does play a role, but we’ve had practice time. It’s just very difficult to replicate that kind of pace and physicality and they are very talented and skilled across the board,” said Spradlin. “For us, not playing much in a lot of days didn’t help us, but when you think about some of our tournament games, sometimes you have a week to 10 days downtime during that run. We have to find a way to be better early in games. We struggled shooting the ball, but they made us work offensively very hard and did a nice job of switching screens and stuff like that. And we had some opportunities that we would like to finish on the first try. Against a good team like that, you don’t get very many second or third chances. Some of our turnovers, maybe we were fatigued, but those lazy passes or longer passes they run through, you just can’t do against a good team.”
The larger, and longer, Lady Vikings vanquished the Lady Pirates on the boards —by a count of 38-12.
Morgan Bentley and Cameron Zinn grabbed 10 rebounds apiece, as senior Myriah Davis —who suffered her second straight season-ending knee injury last season in the meeting at Wheelersburg —had five rebounds in addition to a team-high 18 points.
After Whittaker connected on her three-point goal, Darnell scored again to make it 11-7 at the 1:07 mark of the opening quarter.
But Zinn answered twice for the Lady Vikings in the final 47 seconds of the canto — and Wheelersburg got no closer the rest of the way.
Zinn scored again only 30 seconds into the second quarter, Davis drilled one of her three threes a minute-and-a-half later, and the Lady Pirates never were within single digits for the final 23-and-a-half minutes.
A Makenna Walker free throw put the Pirates down 20-10 at the five-and-a-half minute mark of the second, as they got no closer than 11 points at 40-29 in the entire second half.
Vinton County’s largest leads stood at 62-44 with 75 seconds remaining followed by the 63-45 final.
Vinton County coach Rod Bentley concurred about his Lady Vikings’ defensive performance.
“Our defense was pretty good tonight. It was good because the girls communicated well. We felt we had scouted Wheelersburg well with their shooters (Kaylee) Darnell, (Alaina) Keeney and (Ellie) Kallner. We know what those three can do, so we wanted to give them a variety of defenses,” he said.
Darnell delivered 20 points on eight total field goals, including three treys, as Alaina Keeney chipped in 10 —eight of which occurred in the second quarter.
Ellie Kallner canned a third-quarter three and 2-of-4 free throws for five points, as Lauren Jolly with a second-stanza field goal and Walker and Macee Eaton with fourth-quarter baskets rounded out the Orange and Black.
In addition to Davis’ 18, Williams and Tegan Bartoe bucketed 14 points apiece for the Lady Vikings —as Zinn scored 10.
Bentley, the second-team all-Ohioan but beset by two early charging fouls on Wednesday, buried a two and a three.
“You have to guard 25-feet, you have to help in the post, there are a lot of things you have to do against them. We looked very slow early, but they make you look that way because they space the floor very well and they make you guard,” said Spradlin.
The Lady Pirates return to the road, and return to Southern Ohio Conference Division II action, on Monday night at South Webster.
Spradlin said Wednesday was another learning lesson, as the SOC II-leading Lady Pirates turn the page on December and into league-heavy January.
“We came up short today, but there were probably positives to come out of it. We still have some sophomores that are playing in big moments for the first time, so some of them are learning how to play and how to survive some of these bigger games and bigger teams,” he said. “So this experience, as we move forward, can benefit us in a lot of ways down the road.”
Wheelersburg 7 16 9 13 — 45
Vinton County 15 20 12 16 —63
WHEELERSBURG 45 (4-1)
Ellie Kallner 1 2-4 5, Madison Whittaker 1 0-0 3, Lauren Jolly 1 0-0 2, Alaina Keeney 4 1-1 10, Kaylee Darnell 8 1-4 20, Makenna Walker 1 1-2 3, Lexie Rucker 0 0-0 0, Macee Eaton 1 0-0 2; TOTALS 17 5-11 45; Three-point field goals: 6 (Kaylee Darnell 3, Ellie Kallner, Madison Whittaker and Alaina Keeney 1 apiece);
VINTON COUNTY 63 (7-0)
Chloe Haybron 0 0-0 0, Myriah Davis 6 3-4 18, Lydia Nichols 0 0-0 0, Allison Riddle 0 0-0 0, Tegan Bartoe 6 1-1 14, Morgan Bentley 2 0-0 5, Lydia Lenegar 0 0-0 0, Lacie Williams 4 3-4 14, Ashley Bentley 1 0-0 2, Cameron Zinn 5 0-0 10, Rylee Ousley 0 0-0 0; TOTALS 24 7-9 63; Three-point field goals: 8 (Myriah Davis and Lacie Williams 3 apiece, Tegan Bartoe and Morgan Bentley 1 apiece)
Reach Paul Boggs at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1926, by email at email@example.com, or on Twitter @BoggsSports © 2020 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved