Lady Pirates March on


Burg wins district final over Lions

By Paul Boggs - [email protected]



Wheelersburg junior Lexie Rucker (31) puts up a shot between three Fairfield defenders during Friday’s Division III girls basketball district championship game at Waverly’s Downtown Arena.

Wheelersburg junior Lexie Rucker (31) puts up a shot between three Fairfield defenders during Friday’s Division III girls basketball district championship game at Waverly’s Downtown Arena.


Courtesy of Tim Gearhart

Wheelersburg senior Alaina Keeney (20) cut down the strands of net following the Lady Pirates’ Division III girls basketball district championship triumph over Fairfield.


Courtesy of Tim Gearhart

Wheelersburg junior Makenna Walker (25) drives to the basket during the Lady Pirates’ Division III girls basketball district championship game against Fairfield on Friday night.


Courtesy of Tim Gearhart

The undefeated Wheelersburg Lady Pirates captured their second consecutive Division III girls basketball district championship with Friday night’s 49-42 victory over Fairfield.


Paul Boggs | Daily Times

WAVERLY — Truth be told, it seems only natural that the Wheelersburg Lady Pirates — undefeated or not — play basketball in the maddening month of March.

That’s exactly going to happen again this week —with Wheelersburg rallying, getting hyper-defensive, and ultimately fending Fairfield’s Lady Lions off on early Friday evening.

Buoyed by a 16-1 run over the middle two quarters, and a six-minute and 40 seconds time frame in which the Lady Lions failed to score, top-seeded Wheelersburg won with its defense yet again —and captured another Division III girls basketball district championship with a 49-42 triumph inside Waverly’s Downtown Arena.

Yes, that’s correct —the Lady Pirates keep ‘March’-ing on.

Speaking of playing in March, Wheelersburg now owns nine (1993, 1995, 1996, 1998, 2008, 2015, 2019, 2021 and 2022) all-time district championships —and three in the past four years.

But this one was accomplished differently —as the Lady Pirates pitched a perfect regular season at 20-0, with their Southern Ohio Conference Division II makeup matchup at Waverly still possibly going to be played.

However, that is far from Wheelersburg’s mind between now and Wednesday night —when the 23-0 Lady Pirates play Belmont Union Local, in the Division III Region 11 semifinals at Logan High School.

For Friday evening into the nighttime, though, the Lady Pirates celebrated another hard-earned district championship —which really validates their undefeated season, combined with their three significant graduation losses from last season’s Region 11 runner-up unit.

Perhaps these Lady Pirates themselves— which were also the Division III Associated Press poll champions — are even impressed they are playing into March, but they are indeed used to the spotlight, and the pressure, of competing in the district tournament.

“This (district championship and season) will obviously be something that we’re able to talk about afterwards, but I continue to be amazed by this group. Who in their right mind expects a team that loses three starters off an Elite Eight team to come in and do what we’ve done this year? These girls are tough, they play for each other. Sometimes we look a little rough and ragged, but there is always somebody stepping up and saying that we’re tough enough, we’re built for this, we can do this and we’ve done this before,” said veteran Wheelersburg girls coach Dusty Spradlin. “It’s amazing what we’ve been able to do. When you lose three starters, it can easily be a different story. But I’m glad that it’s been the story that it’s been.”

And, the Lady Pirates’ 2021-22 tale is not yet finished.

It has been defined, though, largely by defense —as was the case against the fourth-seeded Lady Lions, which finished at 20-4.

After a first quarter of four ties and three lead changes, the Lady Pirates fell behind 19-11 only three minutes and 25 seconds into the second canto —following Peyton Magee’s third three-pointer in a row for Fairfield.

At that juncture, Wheelersburg —which even reached the district title tilt thanks to Alaina Keeney’s buzzer-beating basket which sank North Adams (42-40) in last Saturday’s semifinals — was facing its largest deficit of the entire tournament, as the Lady Pirates previously played the cardiac and comeback games against the Green Devils.

Right on cue, the Lady Lions’ only other first-half point was a Braylynn Haines free throw with two-and-a-half minutes to play —as the Lady Pirates got to within 20-18 at halftime, on a three-ball by Madison Whittaker while Lexie Rucker and Keeney concluded the half with hoops.

As it turned out, the Lady Pirates’ offensive “onslaught” was just beginning —but their defensive gem just picked up where it left off.

That’s because Fairfield failed to score for first 4:10 of the third period, while Wheelersburg opened the second half with seven more unanswered —and taking the lead for the final 18 minutes and 13 seconds.

Makenna Walker with a rebound putback tied it at 20-20 only 56 seconds in, and Rucker’s soft floater from a Keeney pass put the Lady Pirates in front for good.

Then, just 22 tics apart, a Macee Eaton bucket — and Keeney connecting on her only three-pointer — stretched to advantage to 27-20 with four-and-a-half left in the third.

Magee finally broke the Lady Lions’ drought at the 3:50 mark, but by two minutes later, the Lady Pirates posted their largest lead at 38-24 —on another Whittaker trifecta followed by Walker and Rucker attacking the rim, and Annie Coriell off a midcourt steal and uncontested layup.

For those into counting, Wheelersburg won the decisive third frame 20-7 —finally making some point-blank buckets after missing upwards of seven to 10 in the opening half.

Spradlin said he didn’t know the specifics of the Lady Pirates’ rally in terms of time and score — or the fact that Fairfield had just five points over an entire eight-minute span.

However, he was delighted in the Orange and Black’s attack.

“Did not know that with the numbers, but did know that we went on an extended run,” said the coach. “I thought early on that we played pretty good defense, and that they (Lady Lions) made shots so give them credit. We took a heckuva punch early on, but we dug in, and challenged them after the first quarter and halftime to keep digging in. Just keep being resilient and make sure that they knew we were going to be there all game long. We want to make it as tough as we can with every possession. We weathered the storm and defensively, from start to finish, I thought we were very good.”

Speaking of that finish, another Magee three got the Lady Lions as close as 44-40 with a minute and 52 seconds left, but Wheelersburg — in the bonus for the final 1:39 — went 5-of-12 from the foul line.

The Lady Pirates actually overcame an 8-of-20 free-throw performance —as Walker went 3-of-8 for their only other freebies through the opening three stanzas.

In that final 1:39, Eaton, Keeney and Kiera Kennard converted three consecutive one-and-one front ends —including Kennard banking hers in for a 47-40 lead with 45 seconds showing.

In the final 22 seconds, Keeney and Eaton made back ends of the two-shot double bonus —and ultimately for the 49-42 final.

The Lady Pirates, as both teams drained five triples, posted an 18-14 field goals advantage —as they also rebounded well, despite giving up some size.

Keeney with 13 and Rucker with 11 led the Lady Pirates in points —as Whittaker’s three threes through the opening three quarters made a difference, as did Walker’s three second-half baskets.

Kennard had her point on the banks-are-open Friday free throw, but her defensive presence was extremely effective —for she primarily face-guarded Fairfield’s top player in Emma Fouch.

Magee and Fouch finished with 15 and 14 points respectively, and combined for all five of the Lady Lions’ threes —but Fouch’s only points for nearly 19 minutes was a field goal at the two-and-a-half minute mark of the third.

“We tried to rotate different players at her (Fouch) just to make her work, but Kiera’s defense is something she’s always been able to bring,” said Spradlin. “She was huge against Fouch. She is such a good player, and we wanted to keep her down.”

For a while, at the most important time in fact, the Lady Pirates did.

And now, Fouch and the senior-laden Lady Lions are out, while Wheelersburg marches on.

Spradlin says often the goal is to win as many championships as possible.

“It was a good overall win and everybody that played played such a huge role,” he said. “Just another way that these kids find to win games.”

The Lady Pirates now play 23-3 and East District champion Union Local on Wednesday night at 8 p.m inside Logan’s Jim Myers Gymnasium.

* * *

Fairfield 13 7 7 15 —42

Wheelersburg 11 7 20 11 — 49

FAIRFIELD 42 (20-4)

Ella Newkirk 0 0-2 0, Hannah Hamilton 0 0-0 0, Caitlyn Quickle 0 0-0 0, Emma Fouch 5 2-2 14, Peyton Magee 6 0-2 15, Kassi Miller 0 0-0 0, Faith Donley 1 3-3 5, Madison Bronner 0 3-4 3, Braylynn Haines 2 1-2 5; TOTALS 14 9-15 42; Three-point field goals: 5 (Peyton Magee 3, Emma Fouch 2)

WHEELERSBURG 49 (23-0)

Jocelyn Tilley 0 0-0 0, Madison Whittaker 3 0-0 9, Annie Coriell 1 0-0 2, Lyndsay Heimbach 0 0-0 0, Kiera Kennard 0 1-2 1, Alaina Keeney 5 2-4 13, Isabella Hamilton 0 0-0 0, Makenna Walker 3 3-8 9, Lexie Rucker 5 0-2 11, Macee Eaton 1 2-4 4; TOTALS 18 8-20 49; Three-point field goals: 5 (Madison Whittaker 3, Alaina Keeney and Lexie Rucker 1 apiece)

Wheelersburg junior Lexie Rucker (31) puts up a shot between three Fairfield defenders during Friday’s Division III girls basketball district championship game at Waverly’s Downtown Arena.
https://www.portsmouth-dailytimes.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/28/2022/02/web1_Burg-LF-Rucker.jpgWheelersburg junior Lexie Rucker (31) puts up a shot between three Fairfield defenders during Friday’s Division III girls basketball district championship game at Waverly’s Downtown Arena. Courtesy of Tim Gearhart

Wheelersburg senior Alaina Keeney (20) cut down the strands of net following the Lady Pirates’ Division III girls basketball district championship triumph over Fairfield.
https://www.portsmouth-dailytimes.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/28/2022/02/web1_Keeney-cut-net-.jpgWheelersburg senior Alaina Keeney (20) cut down the strands of net following the Lady Pirates’ Division III girls basketball district championship triumph over Fairfield. Courtesy of Tim Gearhart

Wheelersburg junior Makenna Walker (25) drives to the basket during the Lady Pirates’ Division III girls basketball district championship game against Fairfield on Friday night.
https://www.portsmouth-dailytimes.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/28/2022/02/web1_Burg-LF-Walker-.jpgWheelersburg junior Makenna Walker (25) drives to the basket during the Lady Pirates’ Division III girls basketball district championship game against Fairfield on Friday night. Courtesy of Tim Gearhart

The undefeated Wheelersburg Lady Pirates captured their second consecutive Division III girls basketball district championship with Friday night’s 49-42 victory over Fairfield.
https://www.portsmouth-dailytimes.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/28/2022/02/web1_2021-Wheelersburg-girls-district-champs.jpgThe undefeated Wheelersburg Lady Pirates captured their second consecutive Division III girls basketball district championship with Friday night’s 49-42 victory over Fairfield. Paul Boggs | Daily Times
Burg wins district final over Lions

By Paul Boggs

[email protected]

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

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