WHEELERSBURG — Start to finish during the 2021-22 regular season, the Wheelersburg Lady Pirates kept their goals in sight.
‘Burg coach Dusty Spradlin told The Daily Times during preseason interviews that their team goals were to play for as many championships as possible this season — the same as last and next year’s.
With the Lady Pirates’ 56-46 win over West Wednesday night, Wheelersburg made good on step one of their goals and — clinched the program’s fourth consecutive outright Southern Ohio Conference Division II championship.
The No. 1 team in Division III in the Ohio girls basketball AP poll also extended the program’s league winning streak to 59 games, and kept their unbeaten record (20-0, 15-0 SOC II) in tact heading into the postseason.
“Every year we talk about wanting to play for as many championships as we can, now they’re 1-0 in that goal,” Spradlin said, after the win. “Monday we get a chance to play for another and we want to get the kids in position to win as many as possible. We’ve been blessed with some talented kids who’ve bought in. This year is really special because I’m not sure too many people expected this group to pull off what they’ve done with what we lost. Give these kids a lot of credit.”
After West pulled within a possession at 48-46 off an Emma Sayre layup, ‘Burg managed to weather the storm and closed on an 8-0 run, sealing the victory with late-game buckets and free throws.
A pair of baskets by junior Lexie Rucker extended Wheelersburg’s lead to 52-46 after it was a one-possession game.
The Lady Pirates went 7-of-12 from the foul line in the fourth quarter, and 12-of-18 in the game overall.
“Told them during one of the timeouts that we’ve been in close games, non-league and league,” Spradlin said. “Every time it felt like we were going to pull away, it felt like they made a run to tie it or make it close. Told them to take a breath, relax and do the things we needed to in the final minutes.”
West started the second half on an 8-0 run to tie the game at 28-all after trailing 28-20 at halftime.
Lady Senators coach Megan Artrip said she was proud of the way her team battled in each phase, but they were unable to overcome a team effort from the Lady Pirates.
“Effort-wise really proud of them. Thought we got after it on the defensive end and forced them to take uncomfortable shots most of the game,” Artrip said. “When we gameplan, that’s what we want to do against them, they didn’t make as many threes as they normally do. But it was more of a team effort rather than from a couple of girls. Offensively we had some players step up and that’s what we’ve been asking. We made runs throughout the game, had to foul late and they were able to ice it at the free-throw line.”
‘Burg senior Alaina Keeney’s game-high 16 points each came during the final three quarters of play.
Keeney and junior Madison Whittaker finished with 16 and 11, respectively, as both knocked down a pair of three-pointers in the win.
Rucker scored 14 points on six made field goals and a 2-of-4 clip at the free-throw line.
Rucker scored six points apiece in the first and fourth periods.
“We needed every one of those performances. Lexie can be so tough because she’s quick and she’s got good length. We were able to get her in spots along the baseline and for the most part that’s where she thrived. We were able to find Alaina and Madison for some open looks and that’s who we’ve been,” Spradlin said. “And Macee Eaton, I can’t say enough. She scores some, gets rebounds and does some of the dirty work for us and every team needs someone like that.”
West was led by junior Lexi Deaver’s team-high 15 points, 13 of which came in the first half.
Senior Abby Adkins, the sophomore Sayre and junior Charlie Jo Howard all scored eight points in the contest.
The Lady Senators, which were voted the No. 7-seed in the Division III Southeast District seeding, will face No. 26 seed West Union — in a D-III sectional semifinal on Saturday at West High School.
Tip time is set for 1 p.m.
“I feel like today got us back to where we were back in December,” Artrip said. “Seeing that was really good and it helps pave our way going into tournaments.”
Wheelersburg, the No. 1 seed in the Division III Southeast District seeding, will face the winner of Minford and Ironton in a D-III sectional final on Monday on their home court.
“We’re going to have to be ready. We’ve had a great season, but now everyone’s 0-0. If you don’t come ready to play and someone shows up real hungry, it can end that quickly. We want our kids to be playing with intensity and purpose and I think they’ve done that.”
Portsmouth West 12 8 17 9 — 46
Wheelersburg 17 11 14 14 — 56
West (16-5, 12-4 SOC II) 46
Maelynn Howell 3 0-0 6, Abby Adkins 2 2-2 8, Eden Cline 0 1-2 1, Sydney McDermott 0 0-0 0, Emma Sayre 4 0-0 8, Lexi Deaver 6 1-2 15, Charlie Jo Howard 3 0-1 8; TOTALS: 18 4-7 46; Three-point field goals: 6 (Deaver, Adkins, Howard 2 apiece)
Wheelersburg (20-0, 15-0 SOC II) 56
Madison Whittaker 3 3-5 11, Annie Coriell 0 0-0 0, Lyndsay Heimbach 0 0-0 0, Kiera Kennard 1 0-0 2, Alaina Keeney 5 4-4 16, Makenna Walker 2 3-4 7, Lexie Rucker 6 2-4 14, Macee Eaton 3 0-1 6; TOTALS: 20 12-18 56; Three-point field goals: 4 (Keeney, Whittaker 2 apiece)
Reach Jacob Smith at (740) 370-0713 ext. 1930, by email at [email protected], or on Twitter @JacobSmithPDT © 2022 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved