One of the things coach Bryan Richerson continues to preach to his West Hall High girls basketball team this season is holding opponents to less than 50 points.
The Lady Spartans managed to do so against region frontrunner Marist Friday night, but couldn’t get the job done in both phases as West Hall dropped a 38-31, grind-it-out contest in Oakwood.
“Marist is a great team, well coached. ... We just couldn’t score,” Richerson said. “You know, we gave up some transition points early on in the first half that hurt us, and we never really got into a rhythm.”
It was a slow-burner from the start. Marist played through West Hall’s 2-3 zone in the first half, gaining some momentum in the early going and never trailing moving forward.
“They wanted to play a slow, half-court game, and we really didn’t want to,” Marist coach Kim Hixon said. “They kind of set the tempo.”
The Lady War Eagles opened the contest on a 10-2 run, and from there relied on a physical presence inside to win the rebounding battle. Marist got key rebounds from Cierra Wells, Sarah Skinner and Diarra Oden (eight points, seven rebounds), who beside Reese Damm (eight points) led the scoring efforts for the Lady War Eagles.
“We’re not a huge team, so we try to get in position and really try to control the boards. If we do that, we have a chance to win,” Hixon said. “(West Hall does) a good job of jamming us. (We) didn’t get as many fast break points as we’d like.”
It just wasn’t an ideal showing for senior guard Anna McKendree or the Lady Spartans. McKendree’s game-high 14 points were hard-earned, and she was the only starter to reach double figures for West Hall (12-7, 2-2 Region 7-4A), which was held to its lowest scoring total since Dec. 16. Kinsey Wilson added six points behind her senior classmate, followed by Aashyah White with five.
Marist was successful in keeping McKendree from gaining any open looks as she started 0 for 6 from the field and was held without a basket for the majority of the opening period. She knocked down a 3-pointer for her first basket with 46 seconds left in the first quarter to cut it to 11-6.
McKendree’s only bucket of the second quarter was a steal and layup to open the period, and she sat for the last five minutes of the half after receiving her second infraction.
The Lady War Eagles (15-2, 4-0) scored six straight to start the second half and continued to battle inside the paint, getting baskets from Wells, Oden and Eva Wirtz. West Hall then capitalized on three straight Marist turnovers, and White drilled a 3 to momentarily cut it 26-20 with less than two minutes left in the third.
But no one else could answer the bell for West Hall on offense, and Marist still showed persistence inside the paint as it got a layup from Annabella Ewing at the buzzer.
Marist rode it out in the final quarter by playing keep-away on offense to milk the clock.
With White County’s win over Chestatee on Friday, the Lady Spartans fell to third in the region standings with just two weeks left in the regular season. Marist retained sole possession of first place with four games left on the docket before the region tournament.
West Hall will break from region action momentarily when it visits Habersham Central at 6 p.m. today. The Lady Spartans resume league action on Tuesday for a 6 p.m. tipoff with Blessed Trinity in Roswell.
WEST HALL BOYS 60, MARIST BOYS 37: Dee Buffington racked up a game-high 20 points, Noah Edmondson added 15 and the Spartans used a mammoth third quarter to capture their first region victory of the season.
After squandering a third-quarter lead against Chestatee last week, West Hall found redemption Friday night. The Spartans dominated defensively while outscoring Marist 23-6 in the third period, during which Buffington and Jeremiah Prather combined for 15 points.
“Normally third quarters, we come out flat and we have let leads get away,” West Hall coach Bobby Pless said. “I mean, that’s probably the best third-quarter defense that we’ve played in my two years here. The kids were balanced.”
West Hall (9-10, 1-3) also dominated the boards as an extra advantage against a Marist team that outmatched the Spartans from underneath all last season. Tae Reid and Prather were others to add to the scoring efforts for West Hall with seven points apiece.
John Treanor paced the War Eagles with 13 points, followed by Jake Mauldin with 11.