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’Jackets rally

Joy’s 18 leads Williamstown girls past Ritchie County

Photo by Josh Hughes Williamstown’s Jayla Wiseman (22) looks to shoot as Ritchie County’s Rebekah Rupert (24) defends during a high school girls basketball game Friday. Williamstown won, 56-48.

WILLIAMSTOWN –Thoughts of a season sweep for Ritchie County over the Williamstown girls were at a high by the end of Friday night’s opening quarter. However, the Yellowjackets responded with a 20-2 run in the second quarter to take the lead and create distance in a 58-46 win over the visiting Rebels.

The 24-12 advantage for RCHS soon faded, as Williamstown went on a 20-2 tear to go into the locker room up 32-26.

Lakyn Joy led the way with 18 points, and she buried a trio of triples in the second quarter to help her side close the gap. Georgie Inman started the rally with a basket, and she saw others get in on the action.

Sophie Folwell, Riah Sprouse and Jayla Wiseman all scored in the frame which saw the team’s offensive woes disappear.

On the opposite end, head coach Dave McCullough’s Rebels couldn’t find the twine. Rebekah Rupert and Olivia Cress were McCullough’s heavy lifters, since Rupert scored 10 of her 13 in the first. Cress led her team in scoring, with 15. She netted seven during the opening quarter. For Fred Sauro’s ‘Jackets (8-4), they entered the game keying in on Rupert and Sophie Nelson. Since those two heavily contributed to the win from earlier in the month. Nelson tallied five of her seven in the first quarter, then Sauro’s bunch clamped down.

“We had been reliant on a certain defense, and they just blew it up,” Sauro said of RC’s energy in the opening moments. “Sometimes, you won’t be able to use it, and you’ve just got to be able to switch it up. We just created a little hesitation in their step, and Ritchie County is a very good basketball team. We had to address a couple of their players, because they were both very good. We had to limit their touches.”

When WHS ratcheted up the defensive pressure, the Rebels (7-4) hardly got clean looks. When an opportune moment came for Ritchie to get back in the ballgame, Williamstown kept answering back. McCullough attributes his team’s troubles to just not being able to score.

“We’re a good pressing team, but then we get ourselves into situations where we start fouling too much,” he said. “The biggest thing is that we couldn’t score. (Williamstown) took away some things, and we didn’t have kids step up and make shots. If we make our shots, we’ll be alright. We’ve got to learn from this, because sectionals are coming up.” “We’ve got to be ready.”

The ‘Jackets stretched the lead to double-figures after Inman and Cress traded baskets in the first couple minutes of the second half. It happened when Nicole Reynolds found Joy open on back-to-back possessions from beyond the arc. That made the score 40-30 with 5:10 remaining in the third. From there, Ritchie couldn’t cut into the home team’s advantage. The closest the Rebels came to tying the game was when Rupert knocked down a free throw to make it a 50-43 score with 2:38 left.

McCullough and company play again on Monday, as they entertain Tyler Consolidated. He hopes his team can find ways to move the ball around, since the upcoming stretch of contests is pivotal to a successful end of the regular season.

“We’ve got to run our offense. They were closing the middle up, so then it affects how we get the ball to Rupert,” he said of Williamstown’s pressure. “We were trying to get some other little things, some screen and roll action. We couldn’t do it consistently, though.”

In this abbreviated season, teams are familiar with playing more game in a weekend than usual. That statement is especially true for Sauro’s crew. WHS plays at 1 p.m. Saturday when Wheeling Central Catholic comes to town. It’s another test for the ‘Jackets, as they look to keep improving during a stretch where they are winners of six of their last seven games.

“We’re still searching for our identity, but I think what we’ve found this week is some mental toughness,” he said. “Against Ravenswood and what we did tonight, I think this can really spur us for the rest of the season.”

Contact Josh Hughes at jhughes@newsandsentinel.com

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