WHEELERSBURG — Although the weather outside was blistering cold, both Wheelersburg and Portsmouth West turned up the temperature with their defensive pressure in their Division III sectional championship game.
It was the third time that the Lady Pirates and Lady Senators have met on the court this season with all three, including the 45-38 win on Wednesday night, going the way of ‘Burg.
The win gives Coach Dusty Spradlin’s Lady Pirates their seventh consecutive Division III sectional title — as every member of their roster has yet to not win a sectional championship during their high school careers.
It may seem easy to say, but it’s also a certainty when looking at the box score.
The deciding stretch of Wheelersburg’s seven-point win came in the second quarter — a period in which the Lady Pirates (17-2) scored just eight points, but held West without a field goal and to just one single point.
In the other three quarters combined, West and Wheelersburg played to a 37-37 tie — as it was 11-11 after one and each team won a quarter in the second half by a 16-10 margin.
After falling behind 9-4, but tying things up at 11-all heading into the second, Spradlin said he was proud of the way his team fought to ultimately swing momentum in its favor.
“We fell behind early, we hadn’t played in a while and you kind of worry about the time off and the snow, conditioning and practice,” Spradlin said. “But I thought both teams played super hard and you could tell at the end both were gassed. Proud of our kids for hanging in there and doing enough.”
West, if a certain scenario plays out in its favor, could finish in second place in this year’s Southern Ohio Conference Division II race.
The Lady Senators (12-7) gave ‘Burg its two closest games against an SOC II opponent this season — a 50-46 result at “The Rock” back on Dec. 3, and of course Wednesday’s seven-point decision.
A fast start on the Lady Pirates was something West coach Megan Artrip wanted — and ultimately saw as her team took the game’s initial lead.
“We wanted to make the first run. We wanted to get the lead, it was our gameplan and we managed to do that,” Artrip said. “Our offense struggled that second quarter, but we held them to just eight points.”
In the first half, after West took the lead, ‘Burg soon followed suit with a run of its own — one in which they wouldn’t look back from.
The Lady Senators committed 11 of their 17 turnovers in the first half, while shooting 30.4-percent from the field for the game.
Similarly, ‘Burg shot just 29.5-percent from the field on 44 shot attempts, but made up for it at the foul line — as West got into foul trouble in the back end of each half.
“The poor shooting you saw on both ends had a lot to do with the defense and two teams that know each other really well,” Spradlin said. “Proud of the fact that even though we didn’t shoot it well, especially from three, our kids kept grinding and found a way. We preached leading into this game that we really wanted to force them into tough shots. They’re a lot like us in their depth and having different kids, we wanted to make sure we didn’t give up open threes and didn’t give up contested shots.”
“We have played very well defensively in our last seven games, we just have to look to score,” Artrip said. “Moving forward, that has to be something we work on in the offseason.”
Wheelersburg was also able to get West out of its offensive rhythm in the second quarter — with Lady Senators sophomore Lexi Deaver on the bench for much of the period.
Deaver, who scored eight points in Saturday’s sectional semifinal win over Southeastern, managed 10 on Wednesday — despite picking up her third foul with 1:05 left in the first.
Artrip did manage to play Deaver in spot situations during the second, mainly offense-for-defense substitutions as she indeed scored West’s only point of the second on a made free throw.
“It really hurt us when Lexi (Deaver) got that third foul. I tried to switch her offense for defense with a couple of kids, and he (Spradlin) also would counter that. It was kind of a coaching duel for a little bit,” she said.
Spradlin said he and his coaching staff tried reminding their players of West’s foul situation throughout the course of the game.
“When Lexi (Deaver) got that third foul, we probably don’t talk about that enough and how we should try, if we get the chance, and attack those situations — in transition especially,” Spradlin said. “Kind of force their hand. They’re either going to have to give you a good look at a shot or foul you. Tried to remind our kids they were in a little bit of foul trouble and if we had the chance to go and attack, then to go do that.”
The Lady Pirates shot 17-of-24 from the foul line — with 10 of those makes coming from sophomore Makenna Walker on 12 attempts.
Walker also grabbed nine rebounds, as ‘Burg outrebounded West by a 33-24 margin and 13-8 on the offensive glass.
Wheelersburg saw its lead grow to as large as 16 — when junior Alaina Keeney knocked down her second triple of the third period to make it 33-17.
Keeney scored eight of her 12 points in that third-quarter stretch — when the Lady Pirates expanded their lead and she, along with Walker and Kaylee Darnell at the foul line, ended up making a difference.
“Those two were huge. Alaina had some really good looks in the first and second quarter, she finally got two in the third quarter and I think it just kind of let everybody breath a little bit,” Spradlin said. “Makenna was very solid all the way through — defensively, rebounding , scoring. I just thought she did a little bit of everything. Everybody that played came in and played super hard.”
The Lady Senators saw life late when junior guard Abby Adkins knocked down two fourth-quarter threes, as West cut ‘Burg’s lead to as few as seven on several occasions in the final eight minutes.
West’s season, despite the postseason-ending loss, is not over quite yet.
The Lady Senators still have a pair of SOC II makeup games to complete — contests against Northwest and Valley.
If they are to sweep their final two games, and Northwest knocks off Waverly in that makeup game which still needs to be played, Artrip’s Lady Senators will secure second place in the SOC II in just her second season at the helm.
That means West will look to finish its season on a positive note — and with its entire regular rotation returning, attempt to build off yet another season-long improvement.
“To be able to play two more games and finish on a high will be great, because tonight is not a low, by any means,” Artrip said. “We take tonight, what we did and accomplished defensively, and we build on that — and hopefully we end our season on a win.”
Wheelersburg will now make a return to the district semifinal stage, and will do so at home for the first time in this seven-year stretch of district appearances.
The No. 1-seed Lady Pirates will welcome No. 9 seed New Lexington to “Pirate Country” next Wednesday (Feb. 24) — with tipoff currently set for 7 p.m.
‘Burg will welcome the Lady Panthers on their 190-mile round trip to Scioto County, as both teams seek a district championship game appearance — and the opportunity to have yet another “banner” year.
“I know they were happy that they could play here at home, thought that was a big deal. Whoever we draw next they have to come here,” Spradlin said. “It’s exciting — we try reminding them that everyone now has the same record. Everyone has no losses. Whether it’s Fairfield or New Lex, either team won’t have a loss and the battle will be won on the court.”
Portsmouth West 11 1 10 16 — 38
Wheelersburg 11 8 16 10 — 45
PORTSMOUTH WEST 38 (12-7)
Maelynn Howell 2 2-2 6, Abby Adkins 2 0-0 6, Eden Cline 1 0-0 3, Haley Coleman 1 0-0 2, Emma Sayre 2 1-2 5, Lexi Deaver 4 1-2 10, Charlie Jo Howard 1 2-2 4, Keima Bennett 1 0-0 2; TOTALS 14 6-8 38; Three-point field goals: 4 (Abby Adkins 2, Eden Cline and Lexi Deaver 1 apiece)
WHEELERSBURG 45 (17-2)
Ellie Kallner 1 1-3 3, Madison Whittaker 0 0-0 0, Lauren Jolly 1 0-0 2, Alaina Keeney 5 0-0 12, Kaylee Darnell 2 5-6 9, Makenna Walker 0 10-12 10, Lexie Rucker 3 1-3 7, Macee Eaton 1 0-0 2; TOTALS 13 17-24 45; Three-point field goals: 2 (Alaina Keeney 2)
Reach Jacob Smith at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @JacobSmithPDT © 2020 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved