Girls give Eagles a battle
Nazareth learned that you better not sleep on this year’s edition of the Whitehall girls basketball team as they scraped out a come-from-behind victory last Friday.
Whitehall had the lead heading into the fourth quarter, and then trailed by just three points with under three minutes left to play.
Grace Clary’s layup, part of her team-high 18 points, brought the Zephs within a possession at roughly the 2:50 mark of the fourth quarter. With the score now 36-33, Whitehall couldn’t close the gap any further as Nazareth’s Morgan Amy began marching to the foul line, sinking six of her attempts to help keep the Zephyrs at bay. Madison Amy then iced the game with a trey as Nazareth defeated the home team 44-38.
With the loss, the Zephs fall to 0-3 on the season.
Learning to close out games will be part of their maturation process. It’s something that’s been reinforced by head coach Josh Madas.
“Our message to the girls has been to play thirty-two minutes,” said Madas. “A downfall of ours has been that there’s always a stretch in the game where we become timid and don’t play our game.”
Madas said that some of that timidity emerged in the fourth quarter and they weren’t as aggressive as he would have liked.
“We didn’t push the ball as much as we would have liked to do, and I think that was the difference in the game,” said Madas.
He said that it’s something they’re going to address moving forward as they look to get into the win column this week.
“We have to talk about how we continually have to play our game because we saw that for the first three quarters when we do that, we can compete,” said Madas.
The Blue Eagles relied on the post play of Tayla Brugler down the stretch as she dipped under the defender for two layups in the paint, one of those moves resulting in a three-point play.
Still, Whitehall did a good job of limiting the damage of both Blue Eagle bigs. Brugler finished with 14 points, while Courtney Paulson added seven.
Madas said that Olivia Hines, who drew the defensive assignment against Brugler, stepped up huge. He said that they drill every day in practice about moving your feet in the post and muscling up, and when Hines went into the game, she was that neutralizing factor.
“She was the one that took Brugler on and was competitive with her,” said Madas.
It also allowed Clary to be that player who could pop out and stick the jumper, something she did with great consistency. She has a soft stroke from beyond, and she’s emerged as the team’s leading offensive threat, something that she and Madas talked about prior to the game.
“I said to her that we need you to be the scorer for us, and she knew it,” said Madas. “She showed that tonight.”
Whitehall’s ability to take the lead heading into the break was due in large part to Briana Smith’s willingness to attack the basket. The senior earned a couple of trips to the charity stripe for her aggressiveness, and also got some steals on the defensive end that led to some run-outs.
Both she and Clary, who hit a three-pointer to give them the 19-18 lead at the half, were instrumental in staking the home team to that lead. Smith showed her ability to weave through defenders with the ball and get off a strong shot at the rim. It’s something that Madas encourages all his players to do.
“Against the zone, we want them to move the basketball and we want to attack the gaps,” said Madas.
Madas said that installing that mindset as a will be a continuing theme, noting that at times during the game they back off from that.
“When we stop attacking, that’s when things start to fall apart,” said Madas.
Madas said that tonight he saw stretches where Smith and Clary were attacking the basket, and their shooters were in the ready position to receive the pass so they could quickly rise up and shoot.
“Little things like that are going to help us progress as a program,” said Madas. The Zephyrs had eight players hit the score sheet with Smith, Hines, and Ella Laky and all finishing with four points. Taryn Sayre had three points, while Olivia George netted two, and Kathryn Kelly and Cassie Due each added a point.