RICHMOND DALE — When West’s Charlie Jo Howard hit her dagger for a three-pointer on Saturday night, Lady Senators’ second-year coach Megan Artrip was thinking the same thing that a lot of observers inside Southeastern High School’s Larry Jordan Gymnasium were.
No…no…way to go Charlie Jo!
As Howard let fly and swished her second three-ball to give the Lady Senators a 46-34 advantage and only a minute-and-a-half remaining, West — with a nice faithful following on Saturday night at Southeastern — was en route to capturing arguably its biggest basketball win of the past few seasons.
The young Lady Senators’ strong turnaround continued into the Division III sectional semifinals — as 17th-seeded West roared out to a 22-10 lead exactly 11 minutes in, then outscored the host and 16th-seeded Lady Panthers 22-10 in the decisive fourth quarter, claiming a 48-37 tournament triumph in the process.
In between those 19 minutes of a pair of 22-10 outputs, the Lady Senators withstood a Southeastern rally —in which it outscored West 17-4 over the remaining 13 minutes, and actually took a short-lived 27-26 lead by the end of the third quarter.
But the Panthers’ advantage only lasted from the 3:43 mark to the opening 14 seconds of the fourth frame —when Emma Sayre scored for the Lady Senators, and West would never trail again.
In fact, the Lady Senators only increased their lead from there, as Southeastern —over the final 5:39 —never got closer than a two-point deficit at 32-30.
“Believe it or not, even though Keima Bennett didn’t do any scoring for us, she created those layups in the fourth quarter. Those are things that the box score doesn’t show. But she had a huge impact on that run,” said Artrip. “ We had great distributing from all of our guards, and knocked down some shots finally.”
The exclamation point on West’s game-ending double up of the Panthers (16-7) came with Howard’s trifecta —in which West held a 43-34 lead when she launched the shot from the left wing.
Given the time and score situation, and with the way the Senators shot Saturday’s free throws, Howard’s attempt initially was head-scratching, but when it went in —Artrip and the Senator faithful were overjoyed.
Howard had both of the Lady Senators’ made treys, scoring a game-high 14 points on six field goals —including nine first-half counters.
“I know, I did too,” said Artrip, with a laugh when asked about her reaction to Howard hitting her three-pointer. “Charlie Jo played great defense, and that’s what we’ve been winning all of our games on these last six. She stepped up and got herself going on offense because of her defense.”
With the win, the Lady Senators stretched their win streak to six —and improved to 12-6 overall.
More importantly, West will play in Wednesday night’s sectional championship tilt —and at top-seeded and now three-time consecutive Southern Ohio Conference Division II champion Wheelersburg.
The Lady Pirates, of the 31 Southeast District Division III teams, were the only ones to draw a bye —and didn’t have to play a sectional semifinal game.
For the Lady Senators, of the 15 Saturday (and Sunday) sectional semifinal winners, they were the only lower-seeded squad to advance.
Simply put, the Lady Senators started AND finished strong —bolting out to the 22-10 lead at the 4:58 mark of the second quarter.
Howard scored seven in the opening period and drove the lane for another deuce only 20 seconds into the second —as Maelyn Howell had five consecutive points over a span of 2:42, including an old-fashioned three-point play and a rebound stickback which made it the dozen-point (22-10) margin.
In the final 7:46, after the Senators survived an epic scoring drought of only a basket in the final 4:58 of the second stanza and another bucket at the 5:50 mark of the third frame, West got five two-point goals —with either driving the lane or hitting baseline jumpers.
West then made good at the free-throw line in the final 4:53 — as Sayre, Haley Coleman, Lexi Deaver and Addy Adkins all meshed 2-of-2, while Bennett split a pair.
Coleman, who had the third-frame field goal, added a pair of second-stanza baskets towards 10 points —as Deaver dropped in eight with three buckets, including a pair in the fourth.
Sayre scored six with her two field goals, Howell finished with her five, and Eden Cline connected for the first basket of the game.
While the Lady Senators shared the scoring wealth, Artrip emphasized the defensive effort.
When the 5-9 Coleman was forced to the bench in foul trouble, the 5-4 Deaver took the assignment of guarding Southeastern senior Macie Graves, who stands 5-10.
“Haley Coleman got her fourth foul and that hurt us because she was on Graves the entire time. We had to make an adjustment with putting Lexi Deaver, one of the smallest girls on our team, on her. But she stepped up and said she could do it,” said Artrip. “And she did.”
Graves did go a perfect 8-of-8 at the foul line, but only scored a single field goal — in the third period.
Southeastern senior Cidney Huff — on two twos, two second-stanza threes and a free throw following an old-fashioned first-quarter three-point play —paced the Panthers with 11 points.
Southeastern stormed back behind 22-10, as Huff hit her two triples — coupled by a first-half pair from Gabby Pernell.
Graves scored six of her 10 in the third, but the Lady Senators kept her at bay — by not scoring any more than one field goal.
Southeastern, with two Scioto Valley Conference contests to make up, fell to an even 10-10.
West will have two more SOC II makeup tilts itself, but first things first, it was all about celebrating Saturday’s tournament win —and turning its attention towards the powerhouse Lady Pirates.
“It’s a huge win for our program,” said Artrip. “It’s been a rough season with the COVID-19, we were quarantined once and we’ve been shortened two games. But we’ve already won more games than we did last year and now we’ve won a tournament game which we didn’t win last year.”
Wheelersburg won both meetings with West, including a narrow 50-46 outcome in the Lady Senators’ second game —in which Cline did not play because of a coronavirus quarantine.
The second showdown was at Wheelersburg — in which veteran Lady Pirate head coach Dusty Spradlin won his 300th career game.
But Artrip said her Lady Senators, this time finally at full strength, is up to the challenge of upsetting the Division III apple cart.
West and Wheelersburg, for the third and final time in 2020-21, tips off on Wednesday night at 7 p.m.
“We’re pumped about playing Wheelersburg. Most people look at that as a negative thing, but we’re not,” said the coach. “We were missing some kids in both games against them, but this time we hopefully have a full team and can come out and play like I know we can. If anybody in that whole bracket can give Wheelersburg a game and come out with a win, I think it can be us.”
Ports. West 13 11 2 22 — 48
Southeastern 8 11 8 10 — 37
WEST 48 (12-6)
Maelynn Howell 2 1-1 5, Elisha Andre 0 0-0 0, Abby Adkins 0 2-2 2, Eden Cline 1 0-0 2, Sydney McDermott 0 0-0 0, Haley Coleman 4 2-2 10, Leah Bolton 0 0-0 0, Emma Sayre 2 2-2 6, Lexi Deaver 3 2-2 8, Charlie Jo Howard 6 0-0 14, Mackenzie Boggs 0 0-0 0, Keima Bennett 0 1-2 1; TOTALS 18 10-11 48; Three-point field goals: 2 (Charlie Jo Howard 2)
SOUTHEASTERN 37 (10-10)
Sierra Mitten 0 1-2 1, Reagan Ruby 1 0-0 3, Gabby Pernell 3 0-0 8, Audrey Scott 0 0-0 0, Cidney Huff 4 1-2 11, Alexis Bailes 2 0-0 4, Macie Graves 1 8-8 10; TOTALS 11 10-12 37; Three-point field goals: 5 (Gabby Pernell and Cidney Huff 2 apiece, Reagan Ruby 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