SOUTH WEBSTER — For Division IV Southeast District girls basketball programs, it’s likely a consensus that South Webster isn’t the squad — and senior standout Bri Claxon isn’t the player — you want to have to face right now.
Unfortunately for the West Lady Senators, seeing their season sidetracked because of the Washington-Nile Local School’s District’s coronavirus situation, they ran into the current buzz-saw that is Claxon and the Lady Jeeps.
On Wednesday night, following a back-and-forth first quarter which featured six lead changes, South Webster went on a true tear for the game’s final 24 minutes and 23 seconds —and ultimately the Lady Jeeps joined the Lady Senators for a second-place tie in the Southern Ohio Conference Division II.
South Webster scored at least 15 points in each canto, stymied West to only four second-period points, and placed four players in double figures en route to a 66-45 rout inside the SWHS gym.
The contest was a makeup matchup from three weeks ago, but the Lady Jeeps just picked up from where they left off — from Saturday’s monumental non-league triumph at previously-undefeated Trimble (58-56).
As a result, South Webster —which Wheelersburg swept for that particular two-game clear cushion — pulled even in the SOC II loss column with West, as the Jeeps are now 9-2 and 13-4.
The Lady Senators, conversely, are now 11-3 —and 7-2 in the division —as their three losses are to teams with a combined staggering record of 45-6.
Simply put, the Lady Jeeps — following a late November start due to the volleyball team’s tournament run to the state semifinals — are now playing their best basketball.
“Really proud of the girls and the effort they gave tonight,” said SWHS coach Ryan Dutiel. “The last three or four games, we’ve tried to tighten things up defensively. Our defense has been a lot sharper. And we’ve needed some help for Bri (Claxon) for practically all year. Faith (Maloney) stepped up, Bella (Claxon) stepped up, and Skylar (Zimmerman) stepped up huge. Being able to have more balanced scoring and help Bri with the load, that’s a sign to me that we are peeking at the right time.”
In between Saturday and Wednesday, the Lady Jeeps squeezed in a 59-37 win at Northwest on Monday—and faced the Lady Senators for the first time this year.
Although, West was only playing just its second tilt in 27 days — due to the district’s decisions in addressing the COVID-19 situation.
The Lady Senators’ first game back following multiple postponements was on Saturday —a 56-38 home victory over Eastern.
However, with SOC II second-place positioning behind league-leader and undefeated Wheelersburg (11-0 SOC II), it wasn’t West’s advantage to travel to and play against a hard-charging Jeep bunch —given its recent roll and Claxon’s all-around exploits.
On Wednesday, with the Trimble win combined with Claxon’s season-high 36-point barrage being widely talked about still, she poured in 28 against the Lady Senators —on 10 total field goals and a perfect 7-of-7 free throws.
She split her halves almost evenly —on five field goals and 5-of-5 freebies for the first half —followed by five more field goals, including her only three-point goal on the third period’s opening possession.
That made it 35-15, as the Jeeps’ largest lead stood at 40-17 — only two minutes and 40 seconds later at the 5:07 mark.
From there, South Webster’s lead ranged anywhere between 16 and 22 points the rest of the way, with West getting no closer than a pair of 16-point deficits — on three-point makes by Eden Cline (54-38) and Charlie Jo Howard (59-43).
Besides Bri Claxon’s 28, the six-foot-tall fellow senior Faith Maloney muscled for 14 points on seven deuces —including eight first-half counters.
Bella Claxon added 11 points on two twos, a trey with 25 second-quarter tics left for a 32-15 halftime bulge, and 4-of-6 foul shots.
Then there was Skylar Zimmerman, who tallied 10 points on two first-half deuces and two second-half trifectas.
One of those, from the corner, swelled the lead up to 38-17 —followed by a Maloney bucket for the 23-point advantage.
“Skylar made some really nice passes and hit two big threes. Faith shot the ball well and was aggressive offensively. Those are four kids who are absolutely capable of doing that (double figures scoring) night in and night out,” said Dutiel.
But the Jeeps indeed gained their separation from the Lady Senators over the final nine minutes and 47 seconds in the opening half.
Cline canned a pair of three-pointers towards West’s first lead at 7-6, but a rebound stickback by Bri Claxon gave the Jeeps the lead for good at 12-11.
Claxon’s first free throws made it 4-0, as she bookended the first quarter by scoring the final seven points —grabbing a rebound and going coast-to-coast for a layup with 23 seconds showing, then driving the lane and getting fouled and converting the old-fashioned three-point play with half-a-second left.
Claxon scored six more second-stanza markers, as South Webster won the decisive salvo with defense —limiting the Lady Senators to only a Cline field goal, and free throws from Lexi Deaver and Maelynn Howell.
Speaking of whom, the Lady Jeeps held Howell to only five points —as Deaver was saddled with two early personal fouls.
Time and again, South Webster denied West with blocked shots or made steals, spearheaded by the senior tandem of Claxon and Maloney.
“She (Howell) was a hard matchup for us, but we thought Faith (Maloney) could handle her if she stayed straight up on her,” said Dutiel, on defending Howell. “Faith’s vertical is really good and she is so long-armed. We felt like if she just went up straight, she could cause Howell some problems maybe getting the ball off. Faith played an outstanding defensive game.”
Cline with 13 points, on two twos and three threes, paced the Lady Senators —which also got 11 points from fellow senior Abby Adkins.
Adkins and Howard, who had seven points with 4-of-6 free throws, had the only other West made trifectas.
West coach Megan Artrip addressed the Lady Senators’ situation of not being able to play —or even practice.
West went eight days without any practice time in fact —as the district switched to virtual learning during that same span.
“South Webster is a great team, but it is hard to get into a rhythm when there is no rhythm. We’re not going to blame it on that, though. I thought we took good shots in the first quarter, but in the second quarter we didn’t shoot much and went stale a little bit,” said the coach. “And it’s hard to fight back when you’re playing against Bri Claxon. I will say that my girls worked hard and I was proud of them for not giving up at the end.”
West was right back at it against another on-a-roll SOC II team on Thursday night —traveling to Waverly (12-4, 7-3 SOC II), which was winners of six straight.
The Jeeps return home, and return to action on Friday night, against Minford.
Dutiel said all his charges can do is keep on Jeepin’ on.
“We’ve got some nice quality wins on our resume so far,” he said. “We’re peeking at the right time, and really looking forward to seeing what we can pull off the rest of the season.”
* * *
Ports. West 11 4 14 16—45
South Webster 17 15 16 18 — 66
WEST 45 (11-3, 7-2 SOC II)
Maelynn Howell 2 1-2 5, Abby Adkins 4 2-2 11, Eden Cline 5 0-0 13, Sydney McDermott 2 0-0 4, Emma Sayre 1 0-2 2, Lexi Deaver 0 3-4 3, Charlie Jo Howard 1 4-6 7; TOTALS 15 16-10 45; Three-point field goals: 5 (Eden Cline 3, Abby Adkins and Charlie Jo Howard 1 apiece)
SOUTH WEBSTER 66 (13-4, 9-2 SOC II)
Faith Maloney 7 0-2 14, Makayla Raynard 1 1-2 3, Bri Claxon 10 7-7 28, Bella Claxon 3 4-6 11, Skylar Zimmerman 4 0-1 10, Riley Raynard 0 0-0 0; TOTALS 25 12-18 66; Three-point field goals: 4 (Skylar Zimmerman 2, Bri Claxon and Bella Claxon 1 apiece)
Reach Paul Boggs at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1926, by email at [email protected], or on Twitter @paulboggssports © 2022 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved