McDERMOTT — Fantastic, impressive, necessary.
Each of these adjectives are more superlative in describing Wheelersburg senior Kaylee Darnell’s career-best 35-point outing on Thursday.
The most important stretch of the game was really when the ‘Burg senior made her impact felt.
After Northwest had tied things at 28-all late in the third quarter, a Darnell three — one of her five-long range makes in the win — helped spark a 16-1 Lady Pirates’ run over the last 3:40 of the period.
The end result of the Lady Pirates trip to McDermott was a 52-37 win over Northwest in Southern Ohio Conference Division II play — improving ‘Burg’s heralded streak to 39 consecutive league wins.
After the game, Darnell and head coach Dusty Spradlin discussed what they saw in her performance — which helped Wheelersburg improve its record to 11-1 (11-0 SOC II).
“They came out in man, so I knew if they were playing off of me that I could shoot the three,” Darnell said. “I felt pretty good in warmups, came out and hit a few shots. Rest of the game came pretty fluently to me.”
“I thought she was fantastic. Thought she shot the ball well, but also her decisions were good,” Spradlin said. “When you’re rolling, you have a little bit more freedom to get some quicker shots.”
Northwest coach Dave Frantz discussed what went into the Lady Mohawks’ defensive gameplan, while explaining inherent problems in attempting to double team someone of Darnell’s caliber.
“She played really well — we knew what kind of shooter she is and I thought we played pretty well defensively on her,” Frantz said. “But Wheelersburg has more than Kaylee, so we can’t just cheat off them and double team her. Being the player she is, she knocked them down tonight — stepped up in a big game like a good player does.”
Aside from Darnell, the lone Lady Pirate to make more than one field goal on the offensive end was senior Lauren Jolly — the beneficiary of a pair of assists from her hot-handed teammate.
In total, unofficially, Wheelersburg forced 14 Northwest turnovers that led to opportunities on offense.
The Lady Pirates surrendered possession just eight times, the majority of which were dead-ball turnovers on traveling calls or errant passes.
“I think the equalizer for us was that we were able to turn them over a few times,” Spradlin said. “We’ve got to try and be better defensively, especially on rebounding. But give credit to them — they’re a big, physical team who has a good record for a reason.”
The Lady Mohawks did outrebound their guests 26-24 as one of the main reasons they kept things within a few possessions — or even tied — for the first three-fourths of the contest.
Northwest cut Wheelersburg’s lead to 22-21 after senior Valerie Copas banked in one of her two three-point makes as time expired in the first half.
Copas finished with a team-high 15 points, as her three gave the Lady Mohawks life going into the halftime break.
“I think when we go in down one, Val banks it in — I think that showed that we can compete with them,” Frantz said. “They’re the best, we can play with the best. That was my thing. If you get down, fight and try to come back. And we did come back, just couldn’t get over that hump after they made their late run.”
A pair of second and fourth-quarter single-digit scoring quarters didn’t deter the Lady Pirates’ winning effort, as their defense held Northwest to single digits in the last three quarters — after leading 16-12 after one.
“Defense is the key,” Darnell said. “He (Spradlin) really stresses that, makes sure we keep up the energy on that end. If we do that, I feel pretty good about where we’ll end up this season.”
The Lady Pirates will be tested out of conference on Saturday as part of the Southwest vs. Southeast Showcase hosted by Eastern Brown — where they’ll face Mercy McAuley High School.
Northwest (11-4, 7 -3 SOC II) has a trio of games next week — Monday and Saturday games versus South Webster in SOC II play, and a non-league game at West Union on Wednesday.
* * *
Wheelersburg 16 6 22 8 — 52
Northwest 12 9 8 8 — 37
WHEELERSBURG 52 (11-1, 11-0 SOC II)
Ellie Kallner 1 0-0 2, Madison Whittaker 1 0-0 3, Lauren Jolly 2 0-0 4, Kiera Kennard 0 0-0 0, Alaina Keeney 0 2-4 2, Kaylee Darnell 13 4-4 35, Makenna Walker 1 0-2 2, Lexie Rucker 1 0-0 2, Macee Eaton 1 0-0 2; TOTALS 20 6-10 52; Three-point field goals: 6 (Kaylee Darnell 5, Madison Whittaker 1)
NORTHWEST 37 (11-4, 7-3 SOC II)
Terah Webb 0 0-0 0; Valerie Copas 6 1-2 15, Haidyn Wamsley 1 0-0 2, Ava Jenkins 3 0-0 6, Faith Jewett 0 0-0 0, Reagan Lewis 2 1-2 5, Kloe Montgomery 3 3-3 9; TOTALS 15 5-7 37; Three-point field goals: 2 (Valerie Copas 2)
Reach Jacob Smith at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930, by email at email@example.com, or on Twitter @JacobSmithPDT © 2020 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved