WAVERLY — Starting in the second quarter, the Wheelersburg Lady Pirates began simply shattering the glass.
In doing so, they broke the Waverly Lady Tigers’ seven-game winning streak, while keeping their Southern Ohio Conference Division II dominance —and winning streak of their own —unscathed.
That’s because Wheelersburg won in the SOC II for the 37th consecutive time on Saturday, caging the Lady Tigers to single digits in the final three periods —and capturing a key 53-35 victory in a makeup matchup at Waverly High School.
It’s 37 straight SOC II triumphs for the Orange and Black, which is now 9-1 and a perfect 9-0 in the division.
The Lady Pirates also remained well above the parity playing out below them, as they handed the Lady Tigers their third league loss — with Waverly now at 9-3 and 5-3 in the SOC II.
Only Northwest (7-2 SOC II), which Wheelersburg ventures to on Thursday night, has two losses or fewer in the division —thanks to Saturday’s outcome.
Wheelersburg coach Dusty Spradlin, who won his 301st career contest on Saturday, said staying above the fray from the remainder of the league beating up on each other is important.
“Hopefully, we keep getting games in and keep winning. There’s a lot of games left to be played and everybody in our league is dangerous. You just have to bring it every night and every day and hopefully our girls will continue to be ready to play and face every challenge that they have,” said Spradlin. “Because there are going to be challenges.”
And, Saturday presented another challenge for the Lady Pirates —playing against a taller team and from behind following a first quarter in which they shot just 1-of-9 from three-point range.
Challenge accepted, and bell answered — as the Lady Pirates put it on the Lady Tigers after falling behind by as much as 13-7.
Wheelersburg won the final three quarters by a doubled margin of 43-22, as its 18-5 blitzkrieg of the Tigers in the second quarter was about as drastic a momentum shift as any basketball fan could possibly hope to bear witness to.
It did help the Lady Tigers that they made all three of their three-point goals in the first —two by Michaela Rhoads and one by Zoiee Smith.
After that, though, they only attempted three and misfired on all three —as the Lady Pirates ratcheted up their defense and forced Waverly into 30-percent shooting on 13-of-43.
In fact, the Tigers tallied just four points over the final 7:17 of the opening half —after Paige Carter split a pair of free throws for Waverly’s final lead at 14-12.
Those came on inside baskets by their primary post players Carter and Sarah Thompson, as Carter’s bucket off a Smith inbounds pass got the Tigers to within 20-18 with 2:07 before halftime.
For Waverly, though, it was as close as it would get the remainder of the way.
Wheelersburg went off for the next 13 points over the next five minutes and bridging the middle two cantos —as Smith, the Tigers’ standout senior, scored her only other points on a two-pointer at the five-minute mark of the third.
Spradlin said the Lady Pirates’ point brigade began with clamping down defensively, and simply smashing the Tigers on the offensive boards against Waverly’s 2-3 zone.
“We tried to extend the floor and they made us pay in that first quarter with three threes. We left a couple people open, they got through our press and they knocked down some shots. In the second quarter, we just got back to guarding and scoring a little bit better. I thought our kids did a really good job of settling in after that first quarter and just guarding,” said the coach. “We tried to make them work to get the ball inside, so I was pretty happy with the way we defended. They are big and strong and are a tough matchup, and we are obviously at a size disadvantage.”
However, the Lady Pirates outrebounded the Tigers 41-28, including a whopping 20-11 in offensive caroms.
Spradlin said that with his perimeter-oriented and outside-shooting happy squad, when teams do play zone — the opportunities are there on the interior for second chances.
That’s despite Wheelersburg often being outsized underneath.
“They played with a lot more energy in the first quarter than we did, and we’ve talked about when we’re not shooting well to get the ball inside. When we do get shots up, we do want to attack the glass. The way they were playing us, they were trying to spread out and guard the circle. It does allow some opportunities to get in there and get some offensive rebounds,” said Spradlin. “I thought our kids showed some good energy especially in that second quarter, getting second and even third shots. We did capitalize on those.”
Waverly coach John Bonifield, pointedly, concurred.
“They just absolutely destroyed us on the offensive boards,” he said. “When you play a little zone like we did, it’s hard to put a body on somebody. But they do an excellent job of going after and seeing the ball and attacking the ball and high-pointing it. Giving them two or three or four opportunities every possession is way too much for a team the caliber of Wheelersburg. Giving them that many chances, you’re going to be on the short end of the stick.”
Those extra scoring chances actually started in the final three seconds of the first frame, when Makenna Walker — who missed a pair of free throws — got her own rebound and stuck it back for an old-fashioned three-point play.
That made it 13-10 at the first stop, as Lauren Jolly’s rebound putback off a Pirate steal made it 13-12 just 20 seconds into the second.
Kaylee Darnell, who poured in a game-high 15 points on six total field goals and 2-of-2 first-quarter free throws, then scored for the 14-14 tie —as two more Walker baskets put the Pirates in front for good.
Wheelersburg never trailed for the final 23 minutes and 10 seconds —and led for the final 23:21.
From there, a pair of Alaina Keeney buckets —including another stickback —made it 22-18, as Darnell with her three-ball and finally Ellie Kallner canning a triple to beat the first-half buzzer made it a double-digit advantage for the remainder of the game.
Wheelersburg, which shot 6-of-20 from three-point territory for 30-percent, drained three more trifectas in the third —one apiece by Keeney, Madison Whittaker and Lexie Rucker.
In the fourth, the Lady Pirates pushed the advantage to as large as 45-26 only a minute into the quarter —and to 53-34 with only 35 seconds to go.
Behind Darnell’s 15, Keeney’s two threes and two twos totaled 10, as both Walker and Rucker netted nine apiece.
Both meshed a pair of charity tosses in the fourth.
Macee Eaton added a first-quarter basket, as no single Lady Tiger tallied double figures.
Carter (two field goals and 4-of-6 foul shots) and Thompson (four field goals) had eight points apiece, as Carter —with a team-high seven rebounds — corralled her 700th career board.
Kelli Stewart on three baskets tied Rhoads with six points, as Carli Knight notched 2-of-4 fourth-quarter free throws.
Smith was credited with nine assists and three rebounds.
But even against the taller Tigers, in a critical SOC II encounter, the Lady Pirates pillaged, dominated —and simply occupied —the all-important offensive glass.
* * *
Wheelersburg 10 18 13 12— 53
Waverly 13 5 8 9 — 35
WHEELERSBURG 53 (9-1, 9-0 SOC II)
Ellie Kallner 1 0-0 3, Madison Whittaker 1 0-0 3, Lauren Jolly 1 0-2 2, Alaina Keeney 4 0-0 10, Kaylee Darnell 6 2-3 15, Lyndsay Heimbach 0 0-0 0, Makenna Walker 3 3-5 9, Lexie Rucker 3 2-2 9, Macee Eaton 1 0-0 2; TOTALS 20 7-12 53; Three-point field goals: 6 (Alaina Keeney 2, Ellie Kallner, Madison Whittaker, Kaylee Darnell and Lexie Rucker 1 apiece)
WAVERLY 35 (9-3, 5-3 SOC II)
Kelli Stewart 3 0-0 6, Carli Knight 0 2-4 2, Michaela Rhoads 2 0-0 6, Lydia Brown 0 0-0 0, Ava Little 0 0-0 0, Delaney Tackett 0 0-0 0, Zoiee Smith 2 0-0 5, Sarah Thompson 4 0-0 8, Paige Carter 2 4-6 8; TOTALS 13 6-10 35; Three-point field goals: 3 (Michaela Rhoads 2, Zoiee Smith 1)
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