SOUTH WEBSTER — For the math majors out there, 11 x 3 equals 33.
On Monday night, and against the host South Webster Lady Jeeps, perhaps Wheelersburg was well aware of that winning equation.
That’s because the Lady Pirates, en route to capturing their 33rd consecutive Southern Ohio Conference Division II girls basketball victory, pumped in 11 first-half three-point goals — and staked an impressive and commanding 30-point (49-19) halftime advantage.
They finished with three-balls better by the dozen, and eventually won 72-52 when all was said and done in their latest SOC II tilt.
That’s right, the math adds up.
Twelve three-point goals including 11 in the first half — swishing through the net on the stage end in the SWHS gymnasium.
With the win, the defending division champion Lady Pirates remain undefeated and atop the SOC II at 5-0 —as they bounced back nicely from last Wednesday night’s non-league loss at Division II undefeated Vinton County.
Wheelersburg is now 5-1, and apparently back to bombing away —and hitting — early and often from the three-point line.
The perimeter-oriented Lady Pirates rely heavily on the three-ball, as they shot poorly from long range in the loss to the Lady Vikings.
What a difference a week —and even a new year on the calendar —made on Monday night.
The Lady Pirates poured in 25 first-quarter points and amounted 24 more in the second stanza —compared to just nine and 10 respectively for the Lady Jeeps.
Wheelersburg’s wire-to-wire lead was only down to two points once —at 4-2 only a minute into the game.
After Alaina Keeney’s old-fashioned three-point play made it 7-2 with only a minute and 22 seconds gone by, it was bombs away for Wheelersburg from that point on.
They splashed six of nine in the opening quarter, and threw in five of 10 in the second — and attempted just two tries in the third while rotating in some reserve players.
Simply put, the Pirates shot daggers — with good ball movement and screens set setting up wide-open looks.
“We shot so well and the energy was just so good,” said Wheelersburg coach Dusty Spradlin. “We wondered how we would respond coming off the loss at Vinton County, where we didn’t play real well and definitely didn’t shoot well. I am really proud of how our kids came out with good energy. And we say a lot of times how contagious it is. The ball movement was really good, we got going in transition, and we started hitting on all cylinders.”
The Lady Pirates, truth be told, didn’t miss much.
Kaylee Darnell scored just 25 seconds in, then Makenna Walker made a steal and assisted to Darnell, who scored again just 22 seconds later.
Keeney converted her three-point play, as the next half-dozen Lady Pirates’ baskets were all three-point goals.
Walker, Ellie Kallner, Darnell, Madison Whittaker, Kallner and Keeney connected in that order in the first period —as Wheelersburg built a 25-9 lead.
It only continued in the second quarter —after Keeney tripled the lead with a deuce just 18 seconds in.
Keeney netted the next three trifectas for a 37-11 advantage at the 5:35 mark, as Whittaker notched her second trey for a 40-11 lead just a minute and 13 tics later.
For the final 4:22 of the half, the Jeeps played the Pirates to a 9-8 deficit — but Wheelersburg had done the damage to a pair of 30-point (45-15 and 49-19) leads for its largest to that point.
Walker, with 2:45 to play in the second, made the team’s 11th three for a 43-15 cushion.
SWHS coach Ryan Dutiel said that whatever defense he called out, the Lady Pirates rained them in.
“They’re just a really talented bunch of girls who can really shoot the basketball. We tried switching some things up and gave them different looks to try and mess their rhythm up and not be so comfortable. But credit to them, they adjusted and knocked them down,” said Dutiel.
The junior Keeney collected four of the dozen, as she dropped in 21 points on seven total field goals and 3-of-3 free throws.
“She (Keeney) is an exceptional player and she never looks like she is exerting herself. It’s effort-less,” said Dutiel.
Kallner added 13 points on two deuces and three treys, with Wheelersburg’s final three-pointer coming courtesy of her in the fourth quarter.
Darnell dialed up one en route to 14 points, as Walker wound up with nine points and Whittaker another six —both nailing a pair of threes.
In addition to 11-of-21 shooting from deep through three quarters, the Lady Pirates played well and dictated defensively that tempo too.
“We mixed some presses and even out of the press, our man-to-man as we scrambled was pretty good,” said Spradlin. “Our job is to make things as tough as possible on them on every possession.”
“They were forcing a lot of the tempo in the first half, and a couple of times down the floor, we just panicked and lost our heads and tried to do too much on our own,” said Dutiel. “We just didn’t hit the shots we normally hit either.”
The Lady Jeeps, to their credit, didn’t fold —and actually outscored the Lady Pirates 41-32 over the final 20 minutes and 22 seconds.
While Wheelersburg mixed and matched rotations with its younger players, South Webster was determined to battle back as much as possible—as it scored 10 unanswered after the Lady Pirates posted their largest lead at 55-19 by scoring the opening three baskets of the third.
The two teams tied 12-12 in that canto, as South Webster won the final frame 21-11 —and got the final deficit down to 20 (72-52).
“The second half, we came out and played for pride and tried to win both quarters and not give them anymore,” said Dutiel. “We gave them a lot of looks in the first half that we normally don’t give.”
Bri Claxon, once again, paced the Lady Jeeps in scoring — pouring in a game-high 25 points on nine baskets and 7-of-10 free throws.
Bella Claxon added 11 —on three field goals including a three-pointer and 4-of-5 foul shots.
For the young Jeeps, they dropped to 5-4 and 3-3 in the SOC II — and remain amongst a crowded field with at least two league losses and trailing both undefeated Wheelersburg (5-0 SOC II) and one-loss Northwest (4-1 SOC II).
For the Lady Pirates, they are content to let teams trailing them play parity and battle each other —while winning themselves and remaining above the fray.
That indeed is Wheelersburg’s winning equation in 2021.
“There are still several things we need to improve on. This was only our sixth game, so we’re still trying to figure out rotations, and who fits where and in what scenarios. We just want to get games in and continue to improve,” said Spradlin. “Hopefully, moving forward, we’ll start seeing a lot of what we saw in that first half tonight.”
Both squads return to the road, and return to SOC II makeup play, on Saturday afternoon.
South Webster will be at Eastern for a noontime tipoff, while Wheelersburg travels to Minford for a 4 p.m. bout.
Wheelersburg 25 24 12 11 — 72
South Webster 9 10 12 21 —52
WHEELERSBURG 72 (5-1, 5-0 SOC II)
Ellie Kallner 5 0-0 13, Madison Whittaker 2 0-0 6, Annie Coriell 0 0-0 0, Lauren Jolly 0 0-0 0, Kiera Kennard 0 0-0 0, Alaina Keeney 7 3-3 21, Kaylee Darnell 5 3-4 14, Lyndsay Heimbach 1 0-1 2, Makenna Walker 3 1-2 9, Lexie Rucker 2 0-0 4, Macee Eaton 1 1-4 3; TOTALS 26 8-14 72; Three-point field goals: 12 (Alaina Keeney 4, Ellie Kallner 3, Madison Whittaker and Makenna Walker 2 apiece, Kaylee Darnell 1)
SOUTH WEBSTER 52 (5-4, 3-3 SOC II)
Faith Maloney 2 2-2 6, Liz Shupert 1 0-0 2, Brooklyn Blanton 0 4-4 4, Bri Claxon 9 7-10 25, Skylar Zimmerman 1 1-4 4, Riley Raynard 0 0-0 0, Bella Claxon 3 4-5 11; TOTALS 16 18-25 52; Three-point field goals: 2 (Skylar Zimmerman and Bella Claxon 1 apiece)
Reach Paul Boggs at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1926, by email at [email protected], or on Twitter @BoggsSports © 2020 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved