WEST PORTSMOUTH — With a berth in the Division III district tournament at stake, the West Lady Senators came up clutch at the line.
After a three-pointer by Rock Hill’s Emma Harper cut West’s lead to 53-51 with just under two minutes to play, the Lady Senators played ball control — and forced the Redwomen to foul in the late stages.
Junior Lexi Deaver and sophomore Emma Sayre combined to go 6-for-6 at the foul line in the final 1:40, helping preserve the 61-56 West win.
Rock Hill had possession in the final seconds with a chance to tie, but a Redwomen turnover followed by a Charlie Jo Howard game-sealing layup as time expired ended any hopes of a comeback bid.
The victory in the D-III sectional title game gave the Lady Senators the program’s first sectional championship since 2013 — and eighth in program history.
It’s also the first sectional title under third-year coach Megan Artrip, who said afterwards her team’s poise in the final moments showcased their hard work to get to this point.
“When you can hit 6-for-6 at the line in a one and two-possession game, it shows the leadership these girls have and the hard work they’ve put in,” Artrip said. “We’ve shot a lot of free throws in last 10 months and that paid off today.”
Early in the game, West faced a 9-0 deficit by the 5:04 mark of the first period.
The Lady Senators responded, and closed the first half on a 31-17 run to take a five-point (31-26) lead at halftime.
Sayre and senior Eden Cline combined to score 23 of West’s 31 points at the midway point.
Sayre tallied a game-best 27 points on 10 made field goals and a six-of-eight mark at the free-throw line, setting a new career-high point total.
“I thought she played very well. We found a mismatch and kept going at that and she really excelled because of it,” Artrip said, of Sayre. “She had a great game, inside and outside.”
“That first half, we had watched enough film that we knew they’d come out on fire and they sure did. To fight back from an early deficit was great to see and showed our composure, and we didn’t look back once we got the lead.”
Cline and Howard both finished with 10 points, while Deaver and Maelynn Howell both had seven apiece.
Cline and fellow senior Abby Adkins, two four-year players for the Lady Senators’ program, reflected on their win — and what it took for their team to win a sectional championship.
“We’ve been playing together since we were little kids and we’ve always had that bond together, working every day and summer knowing the goal of winning in tournament,” Cline said. “We knew we had to stick together to stay in the game to be able to come out on top.”
“We watched film, everyone knew their assignments and everyone played their roles really well,” Adkins said. “We were really unselfish with the ball and made the right passes and plays when we needed to.”
The No. 7 seed Lady Senators advance to Saturday’s Division III Southeast District semifinal, where they’ll face No. 2 seed Eastern Brown for a spot in the district championship.
West’s last appearance in the district tournament in 2013 resulted in a district final berth, and Artrip believes her team is ready for the opportunity to make it happen once again.
“We’ve worked super hard and the girls are so deserving of this. We’re not ready for our season to be done and we’re excited to keep playing,” Artrip said. “Now we get to go and compete against the No. 2 seed. It’s a great opportunity for these girls, hopefully we can do what we need to do and come away with a win.”
West will face Eastern Brown in a D-III district semifinal on Saturday (February 19) at 6 p.m. at the Waverly Downtown Arena.
Rock Hill 11 15 14 16 — 56
Portsmouth West 9 22 16 14 — 61
Rock Hill (19-5) 56
Aleigha Matney 0 0-0 0, Hadyn Bailey 6 0-0 15, Emma Harper 2 0-0 6, Hope Easterling 6 1-1 13, Hazley Matthews 3 4-4 11, Haleigh Risner 0 0-0 0, Jalynn Risner 4 3-5 11; TOTALS: 21 8-10 56; Three-point field goals: 6 (Bailey 3, Harper 2, Matthews 1)
Portsmouth West (18-5) 61
Maelynn Howell 2 3-6 7, Abby Adkins 0 0-0 0, Eden Cline 4 0-0 10, Sydney McDermott 0 0-0 0, Emma Sayre 10 6-8 27, Lexi Deaver 1 4-4 7, Charlie Jo Howard 4 1-1 10; TOTALS 21 14-19 61; Three-point field goals: 5 (Cline 2, Sayre, Deaver, Howard 1 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