Ugly half, big turnaround ignites Lady Knights’ win

Ugly half, big turnaround ignites Lady Knights’ win

Image Credit: Dave Mast

The first half of host West Holmes’ girls basketball contest against Zanesville on Monday, Dec. 19 featured enough turnovers to make the Pillsbury Dough Boy giggle for days on end.

However, the Lady Knights turned things around in the second half. Senior leader Ella McMillen got going, and West Holmes doubled up the Blue Devils 50-25.

The game began about as ugly as a game can be, with both teams coughing up turnovers at an alarming rate. That trend continued throughout the half, and midway through the game, the Lady Knights and Blue Devils had produced 31 turnovers (15 of them West Holmes).

“Goodness gracious” was all Lady Knights head coach Lindsy Snyder could muster concerning the first half.

Keegan Uhl gave West Holmes a 6-5 lead after one quarter with a score, and after Zanesville scored, West Holmes regained and stretched the lead, going on a 9-0 run. That saw Uhl score seven of those points.

The turnover parade continued, and WHHS took a 15-9 lead into the half.

However, Snyder drove home the importance of taking care of the basketball, as well as imploring her players to be more aggressive in taking the ball to the hole and being a tad more selfish in looking to score.

“I knew we would get on a roll and put a run together. I just didn’t know when,” Snyder said. “The first half we just weren’t aggressive and weren’t looking to score. We were complacent and satisfied just passing the ball around the perimeter. Then we started turning the ball over and started thinking about not turning the ball over.”

Snyder told her team at the half they needed to fix several things, the first being don’t be afraid to think “me-first” for a change.

“We’re a really unselfish team, which is a good thing, but at some point, we need to have someone take charge and go around somebody. We were just hesitant to shoot because nobody was attacking,” Snyder said.

The second thing Snyder talked about was take better care of the rock.

The result was immediate and positive for West Holmes.

Ella McMillen fed her sister Allie McMillen for a trey to kick off the second half, then scored on a drive and fed Aveona Yoder to extend the lead to 22-11. An Ella McMillen drive and two free throws from Zalina Proper moved the lead to 25-14, and by the time Ella McMillen delivered a triple and Allie McMillen went coast to coast following a Zanesville miss, West Holmes was in command 33-16.

Ella McMillen’s drive, Yoder’s score inside, a drive and a 3-pointer, Nealie Fair’s score inside, a Proper triple, and Briar Cline’s drive capped off a strong finish for West Holmes.

McMillen poured in a game-high 18 points, 14 of those in the second half when she became much more aggressive, not only setting herself up to score, but also creating scoring opportunities for her teammates.

McMillen said getting into early foul trouble affected her ability to be aggressive, but she turned things around by taking over and leading her team in the second half.

“I just had to keep my composure and not be as aggressive on defense,” McMillen said. “I have definitely been thinking about getting to the hole the last couple games because I have been settling for the 3-point shot lately. But I felt like we needed to get to the hole, and I wanted to lead. I wanted to give us a spark.”

She did, and it helped push the lead quickly.

Defensively, the Lady Knights shut down a Zanesville team that was averaging 50 points per contest and is blessed with several talented players.

Holding the Blue Devils to nine points in the first half, especially when WHHS could only muster 15, was huge.

“They’ve got some kids who can shoot it, and we felt if we could hold them to 45, we’d be happy with that,” Snyder said. “Typically, our goal is 40. I guess if you’re only going to score 15 points in a half, giving up nine to your opponent is a good alternative.”

Snyder said one of the keys was having Chloe Patten slack off of her player and float in the lane to help defend the paint when Zanesville penetrated. Snyder credited her help defense as a big part of the defensive success.

“She was a helper the entire game, and I think to the average fan, they don’t notice something like that,” Snyder said. “When there was a drive, Chloe was there. She played that role really well.”

A perimeter shooting team, West Holmes held the Blue Devils to one 3-pointer, Zanesville going 1-of-16 and hitting on just 9-of-29 for 31%.

Aside from McMillen’s 18, Uhl added 10, Allie McMillen scored six, Proper scored five, and Yoder added five points and seven rebounds. Jazzee Draughn led Zanesville with 16.

The win improved WHHS to 8-0, and Snyder said reeling off eight straight wins to start the season has done wonders for a team, which is closing in on its players perfecting their roles.

“We’re developing some confidence,” Snyder said. “We’re asking our starters to play more minutes, and then we’ve got three kids coming off the bench to fill their roles. The biggest thing is we’re starting to figure out the roles.”