WAVERLY — The South Webster Lady Jeeps, in order to stay right with Wheelersburg and West in the early miles of the Southern Ohio Conference Division II championship race, needed to ‘steal’ one —so to speak —on the road.
The Lady Jeeps just indeed did that on Monday night against the host Waverly Lady Tigers, making 15 steals off 19 Tiger turnovers —and converting several thefts into breakaway layups.
The end result, after a slow start, was the Lady Jeeps shifting into another gear —and driving to a key 51-43 victory, while raising their records to 2-1 (both overall and in SOC II).
South Webster, with its season opener with Wheelersburg resulting in a 66-55 defeat, needed to bag Monday’s contest —while West is also right there undefeated, and atop the SOC II with the defending champion Lady Pirates.
“These kids, especially (sole seniors) Bri (Claxon) and Faith (Maloney) know how important it is to win here. It just gives us a shot in the arm,” said SWHS coach Ryan Dutiel. “You want to win these games early, and you don’t want to put Wheelersburg or West in the driver’s seat. You obviously want to control your own destiny with that.”
West will host Wheelersburg on Thursday night, as the Lady Jeeps play the Lady Pirates once more — and the Lady Senators twice.
But the Lady Tigers are also to be reckoned with in the league —although they fell to 3-2 and 2-2 with the loss, having also lost their league opener at Wheelersburg two weeks ago.
So South Webster, after the Lady Tigers tallied the opening six points, scored 11 unanswered —and actually only trailed once more at 12-11.
Faith Maloney made an inside basket only a minute and 47 seconds into the second quarter —and the Lady Jeeps never trailed for the final 22 minutes and 13 seconds.
They actually established a 10-point advantage (34-24) with nine minutes and 40 seconds remaining, as Waverly got three consecutive Bailey Vulgamore baskets — making it 34-32 about a minute into the fourth frame.
But over the next four-plus minutes, the Lady Jeeps jump-started themselves again —and gained good fortune from a roll-around-the-rim and dropping in three-point goal by Riley Raynard with 2:53 to go.
That made it 45-36, and despite five straight Tiger tallies to make it another four-point affair, Skylar Zimmerman with two free throws and Bri Claxon with four freebies in the final 37-and-a-half seconds sealed it.
The standout senior scoring machine Claxon, after opening with games of 30 and 28 points, poured in 27 against Waverly — on 11 total field goals, including the Jeeps’ first field goal on a trifecta, and that perfect 4-of-4 fourth-quarter foul-line showcase.
Zimmerman muscled for 16 on four buckets and a solid 8-of-10 charity tosses, while Bella Claxon also got in on the scoring act —with an old-fashioned three-point play to make it 26-21 and only three minutes gone by in the third.
But Dutiel, who said his squad is still gaining its basketball legs following its postseason volleyball run to the Division IV state tournament, said that defense was the name of Monday night’s game.
The Lady Jeeps, against the longer and taller Tigers, forced Waverly into a 32-percent shooting night —which included only two of 19 makes from three-point range.
Both of those were by Ava Little, as South Webster was successful at running through the passing lanes —and making midcourt steals and finishing with Bri Claxon layups on the other end.
Bri Claxon with five, Zimmerman with four and Bella Claxon with three combined for a dozen of the 15 Lady Jeep takeaways.
Bella Claxon with seven and Zimmerman with six were the top team rebounders, as both gals grabbed five and four defensive boards, respectively.
“We really wanted to emphasize defense at this point in the year, and in the practices leading up to this particular game. We went with what we felt was the right defense against Waverly. Our offense is still a work in progress, but our defense has to be ready to go night-in and night-out,” said Dutiel. “(Kelli) Stewart and (Sarah) Thompson are both outstanding post players. We wanted to make sure they didn’t get the ball, and if they did, they faced pressure and kicked it back out. We’ll play the percentages game, outside versus inside.”
Only four Lady Tigers scored —spearheaded by the standout Stewart with 16 points on six field goals and 4-of-5 free throws.
Vulgamore added 11 and meshed 5-of-6 foul shots, while Little and Thompson tallied eight points apiece, including three baskets and 2-of-4 second-half freebies by Thompson.
South Webster went only six players deep, while Waverly went with only seven.
The Lady Tigers only scored more than nine or 10 points in the final quarter, which was 15 — and thanks largely to 6-of-6 foul shots.
Still, the Lady Jeeps outscored them 30-24 in the second 16 minutes, after leading by mere 11-9 and 21-19 counts after the opening two salvos.
Little’s two treys came with 42 seconds left in the opening frame for that 11-9 lead, and then again from the corner pocket with 2:36 left to make it 45-39.
Thompson pulled down a game-high 13 rebounds —and Vulgamore managed five caroms, six assists and two steals —but Waverly coach John Bonifield said his Lady Tigers’ performance on Monday wasn’t indicative of its first four bouts.
“We didn’t play with the energy and effort we had been playing with thus far this season. You can’t afford to make mistakes against a very good team like South Webster. I thought our transition defense wasn’t very good tonight,” he said. “We have to do a better job of sprinting back on defense and not giving up easy scoring opportunities.”
And the Lady Jeeps, in fact, forced a lot of those —and always answered the Lady Tigers’ mini-spurts.
South Webster, for the game’s final 21 minutes and 53 seconds, maintained an advantage ranging from two to 10 points.
“That’s huge for this time of year and for these girls’ mental aspect of the game. You have to answer bucket-for-bucket. You can’t let them go on big runs and us come down and have empty possessions. We emphasized in our timeouts to make sure we come down defensively and get a stop, and come down the other way and take high-percentage shots. Nothing really but no-brainer layups.” said Dutiel. “We’ve also emphasized our free-throw shooting, and the girls to get the ball in Bri’s (Claxon) and Skylar’s (Zimmerman) hands.”
It was in their hands early, often and especially late —as the Lady Jeeps entered Tiger territory, and escaped with the necessary “steal”.
South Webster will return to the road, and return to SOC II action, on Thursday night at Minford.
“Just really proud of the girls, really proud of their effort and focus down the stretch here tonight,” said Dutiel. “As long as we can keep up the pressure, and keep playing well, and get some quality minutes from our bench to spell the starters, I really look forward to see what we can do.”
South Webster 11 10 13 17— 51
Waverly 9 10 9 15 —43
SOUTH WEBSTER 51 (2-1, 2-1 SOC II)
Faith Maloney 1 0-0 2, Bri Claxon 11 4-4 27, Bella Claxon 1 1-1 3, Skylar Zimmerman 4 8-10 16, Riley Raynard 1 0-0 3, Kennedy Murphy 0 0-0 0; TOTALS 18 13-15 51; Three-point field goals: 2 (Bri Claxon and Riley Raynard 1 apiece)
WAVERLY 43 (3-2, 2-2 SOC II)
Kelli Stewart 6 4-5 16, Ava Little 3 0-0 8, Morgan Crabtree 0 0-0 0, Bailey Vulgamore 3 5-6 11, Delaney Tackett 0 0-0 0, Caris Risner 0 0-0 0, Sarah Thompson 3 2-4 8; TOTALS 15 11-15 43; Three-point field goals: 2 (Ava Little 2)
Reach Paul Boggs at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1926, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @paulboggssports © 2021 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved