WHEELERSBURG — The only thing standing between the Wheelersburg Lady Pirates and their second Division III district title in the last three seasons was seemingly time itself.
Yes, the Coal Grove Lady Hornets fought admirably, even cutting the Lady Pirates’ lead to four points at the start of the third quarter.
But they were unable to stop the ‘Burg train from rolling its’ way to yet another district crown in this battle of Ohio Valley Conference and Southern Ohio Conference Division II champions — doing so in their 68-47 win over Coal Grove on Saturday at Ironton High School’s Conley Center.
Leading by as many as 16 points in the first half (28-12) and taking an eight-point lead into the halftime, Wheelersburg went on to win the second half by a 37-24 margin to hand the Lady Hornets their third and final loss of the season.
‘Burg coach Dusty Spradlin said after the win that each of the nine Lady Pirates who saw the court played an important role in them advancing to the regional stage.
“I thought they played fabulous, everybody that played played an important role. We used our depth a little to wear on them a little bit,” Spradlin said. “They took some advantages when we went to press in the second quarter, (Addi) Dillow throwing it over the top for some baskets. They’re tough – we knew we’d have to play a really good game and just super proud the way our kids kept fighting.”
48 of Wheelersburg’s 68 points in the win were of the two-point variety, compared to just 22 of Coal Grove’s 48 coming from inside the three-point line.
Needless to say, the Lady Pirates’ (19-2) game plan of attacking CG’s zone defense and rebounding efficiently were more than impactful on the outcome of the game.
“We talked before the game not to fall in love with threes against that zone, and it’s easy to do. We’ve got some kids that can shoot it, but we wanted to drive and attack them if we felt like they had some kids out of position,” Spradlin said. “We had some really good interior passing, really proud that we stuck wit the gameplan of trying to get it in the paint.”
Unofficially, the Lady Pirates won the rebounding battle by a 39-30 margin, largely because of their ability to limit the Lady Hornets to just one shot per trip on the offensive end.
Despite being somewhat undersized compared to CG, Wheelersburg played large in one of the areas Spradlin and his coaching staff believed would be key in securing the win.
“(Addi) Dillow and (Kaleigh) Murphy are so athletic that when they shoot the first one, they’re able to get an offensive rebound. Had a couple of those were we felt like we had pretty good position,” Spradlin said. “But for as small as we are and how well we rebounded, it was a huge focus for us. We know how good of rebounders they are – those kids make a living off that.”
Particularly big on the glass for the Lady Pirates were senior Kaylee Darnell and Makenna Walker, who also happened to lead ‘Burg in scoring.
Darnell’s game-high 31 and Walker’s 16 combined to equal the exact amount of points the Lady Hornets scored as a team.
In the third quarter when ‘Burg out-scored CG 24-13, Darnell and Walker combined for 19 of their 24 points on nine field goals as the pair were consistent in attacking the rim and the offensive glass.
“Some of those rebounds she (Walker) had were big. She’s going up through contact, sticking with it – one time she had two or three on one possession,” Spradlin said. “She’s a sophomore, some of these younger kids don’t have a ton of experience in these tournament games. Proud they were all able to come in and contribute.”
Coal Grove was led by Addi Dillow’s team-high 16 points, ahead of Kaleigh Murphy and Abbey Hicks who finished with 13 and 10, respectively.
With the win, the Lady Pirates will now advance to Wednesday’s Division III regional semifinal versus Eastern Brown to be played at Chillicothe Southeastern High School.
The Lady Warriors defeated SHAC rival North Adams 47-34 in Saturday night’s Division III district final to claim their 2nd-straight district crown and take a 2-1 series lead over the Lady Green Devils during their games played in the 2020-21 season.
No matter which opponent wound up winning the all-SHAC district final, the Lady Pirates were going to be faced with a familiar opponent at the regional stage.
Now that they’re certain it’s Eastern Brown — a program they defeated 50-39 in their 2019 D3 district championship win — all that’s left to do is gameplan and show up to play and attempt to reach their third regional final in three seasons.
“We’re to a spot now where it’s a lot of gamplanning, lot of shooting. We just to make sure we’re as prepared as we can which is why we’re going to watch a game tonight. We’ll come in on Monday and be able to practice, show them what we think we’re going to see,” Spradlin said, of this week’s preparation., “The good news is at this point we’re still practicing – we’ll go play and do what we can.”
Coal Grove 10 13 13 11 — 47
Wheelersburg 19 12 24 13 — 68
COAL GROVE 47 (22-3)
Kelsey Fraley 0 1-2 1, Elli Holmes 0 0-0 0, Addi Dillow 6 2-5 16, Kaleigh Murphy 4 3-4 13, Abbey Hicks 4 1-1 10, Rylee Harmon 0 0-2 0, Jayden Griffith 2 3-4 7; TOTALS 16 10-18 47; Three-point field goals: 5 (Addi Dillow and Kaleigh Murphy 2 apiece, Abbey Hicks 1)
WHEELERSBURG 68 (19-2)
Ellie Kallner 2 0-0 5, Madison Whittaker 1 0-0 3, Lauren Jolly 0 0-0 0, Kiera Kennard 0 1-2 1, Alaina Keeney 3 0-4 7, Kaylee Darnell 14 0-0 31, Makenna Walker 8 1-3 17, Lexie Rucker 2 0-0 4, Macee Eaton 0 0-0 0; TOTALS 30 2-9 68; Three-point field goals: 6 (Kaylee Darnell 3, Ellie Kallner, Madison Whittaker and Alaina Keeney 1 apiece)
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