It looked like it was going to be an easy win for the Whiteoak High School girls basketball team on Wednesday night, as they opened tournament play at Northwest High School against Portsmouth Clay. Unfortunately, after opening up the game with a 20-4 lead after the first eight minutes, the Lady ‘Cats let their their lead dwindle away and by the end of the game saw themselves on the wrong side of a 55-52 final score.
As mentioned before, the Lady ‘Cats started the game on a tear. Starting with a basket from Michaela Luman, the Whiteoak girls opened the game on a 12-0 run, with four different players getting into the scoring column during the run. When Clay finally did get on the board, it was one free throw. By the end of the first eight minutes, the Lady ‘Cats had a very healthy 20-4 lead.
That lead wasn’t healthy enough as the Lady Panthers came out in the second quarter firing from downtown, as they hit six three pointers which accounted for 18 of their 25 points in the quarter, while holding Whiteoak to just five points. When the buzzer for halftime sounded, the Lady ‘Cats found themselves down by four, 29-25.
In the third quarter, it was back to the Lady ‘Cats with the scoring as Emma Wardlow led the charge with 11 of her team’s 15 points and the Whiteoak defense was able to hold back the Lady Panther offense to allow only nine points. Going into the fourth and final quarter, the Lady ‘Cats were back on top 41-38.
The Lady ‘Cats played neck-and-neck with the Lady Panthers a majority of the final eight minutes, and with just over one minute to go, held a three point lead. The Lady ‘Cats could have held the ball and forced the Lady Panthers to foul them to stop the clock but they instead tried to put a few more points on the board to distance themselves from their opponent. However, the plan backfired, and on a missed shot, the Clay girls were able to grab the rebound and on their next two possessions, nail back-to-back threes and just like that, Whiteoak was down by three. The Lady ‘Cats tried to get their shooters open on their next possession but with time running out, had to settle for a two pointer and then foul. The Lady Panthers were able to capitalize on both free throw attempts to make it 55-52. With just four seconds on the clock, the Lady ‘Cats got the ball back and Emma Wardlow heaved up a shot from just across the halfcourt line that fell short and the final buzzer sounded with a final score of 55-52.
“We knew coming in that they could shoot the three pointer,” said Whiteoak head coach Randy Abbott after the game. “We scouted them last week when they played Northwest and they hit 14 of them in that game. We told our girls that they had to close out with high hands. They spread the floor and then like to reverse it quickly.
“We let this one get away from us. I thought this was one that the girls could have easily won. The girls played hard though. It’s hard to criticize that. Sometimes instead of reacting and playing ball, we just stand. We have so many unforced turnovers.
“We’re going to lose three seniors that have really laid us a good foundation. I think if we have the heart and determination, we can be a pretty good team next year. I think with the class coming up, I think their are some key players there that can help us next year.”
PCHS – 4 25 9 17 – 55
WHS – 20 5 16 11 – 52
Whiteoak: Wardlow 7(2) 4/5 – 24; Carr 3 7/10 – 13; Jones 3 – 6; Hardless 2 1/2 – 5; Luman 1 2/2 – 4. Totals: 16(2) 14/19 – 52.
Portsmouth Clay: Warrock 5(3) 6/9 – 25; Delotell (6) 2/2 – 20; Osborn 2(1) – 7; Balestra 1/6 – 1; Brown 1/2 – 1; Adams 1/2 – 1. Totals: 7(10) 11/21 – 55
Reach Robert Stegbauer at 937-393-3456 ext. 1679 or on Twitter @RStegbauer.