Whitehall-Coplay Press

Friday, January 18, 2019

Whitehall girls hoops tops Dieruff

Wednesday, January 24, 2018 by Steve andres Special to the Press in Sports

The Whitehall girls basketball team extended their winning streak with a victory over Dieruff last Friday evening, helping to solidify their push for a postseason appearance.

Once again balanced scoring was the key to the league win as they got points from six different players en route to the 46-26 victory.

Their winning streak was interrupted on Saturday when they traveled to Hazleton to face the Cougars. They lost a tight game as they lost by four to the denizens of the Wyoming Valley Conference.

After Saturday’s loss, the Zephyrs are now 5-8. A critical week looms as they play Northampton, East Stroudsburg South, Liberty and Nazareth.

Before that loss, the Zephyrs had reeled off three straight wins. In Friday’s game against the Huskies, they got off to a slow start, but picked it up in the second quarter as Olivia George, Grace Clary and Alix Buskirk drilled shots from beyond the arc as they took an 18-13 lead into intermission.

Their sluggish start was something that head coach Dwight Repsher was concerned about since they hadn’t played in a week.

“What I really thought was that we didn’t come ready to play,” said Repsher. “We had two big wins last weekend and haven’t played since, and we’re resting on our laurels and our concentration wasn’t there.”

He pointed to the fact that they missed some open threes in the first quarter. They trailed the Huskies by one heading into the second quarter, but quickly erased that deficit when Olivia George hit a trey to make it 9-7.

Moments later, the game was tied 11-11, but Clary raised up from behind the stripe and gave the Zephs the lead again with her three-pointer. From that point, their offense began clicking and Repsher said that they began to play with greater urgency.

“Once we got serious about things, we made some shots,” said Repsher.

Those three players had stretches where they scored consecutive buckets for the Zephs. Cleary had her streak in the second, while Buskirk had her moment in the third quarter, scoring the first of her seven consecutive points on a midrange jumper to make it 27-16. She followed with another field goal, and then was fouled on a bucket on their next trip down the floor. George’s run came in the fourth as she reeled off eight consecutive points, including two treys as she put the nail in Dieruff’s coffin in that final frame.

That trio combined for 35 points as George knocked down 13 points, while Buskirk finished with 12 and Clary added 10.

Buskirk, a senior, said that they’re playing with confidence and that’s fueled the recent upswing.

“I think our confidence is up with the offense,” said Buskirk. “In the beginning we really weren’t running it and just going through the motions. But now we’re really executing things, and we’re scoring, and that’s really what it’s all about.”

Buskirk hopes that the confidence they’ve shown on the court the last few games will continue as they begin the second half of their season as only league games remain on their schedule.

Buskirk is confident that they can win seven of their remaining 11 games to qualify for the playoffs.

“It’s possible the way we’ve been playing,” said Buskirk. “We should be OK.”

Buskirk’s role has changed since last season. The senior has been inserted in a number of spots on the floor, and whether she’s playing the 1, 2 or 3, she’s comfortable filling those roles, highlighting her versatility. She’s willing to scrap inside for a rebound, or step out beyond the arc to nail a three. Since they lack size, Buskirk knows that she needs to play both inside and out this year.

“I’m good with wherever he [coach Repsher] wants me to be as long as it helps the team,” said Buskirk.

Repsher said that they played well at times on defense against Dieruff, noting that holding an opponent to 26 points was not a bad defensive effort. Dieruff had some good shooters on the team and were able to knock down shots, but the Zephyrs made them earn their points.

The Zephyrs were also adept at stepping into the passing lanes, something that Ariana Hines did a number of times throughout the game which led to some transition points.

Taryn Sayre also hit from beyond the arc, finishing with fives points, while Katie Kelly had four and Cassie Due added two in the win.