“Just the way we like it.” That is how West Union Lady Dragons head coach Jason Claytor described the first six minutes of his team’s game on Dec. 9 at home with the Portsmouth West Lady Senators. Why was Coach Claytor so fond of those opening minutes? Mainly because in that span his team scored the first 12 points of the game, going on to lead from wire to wire and posting their third victory in five outings this season, topping the Lady Senators by a final score of 63-44.
The Lady Dragons came out like gangbusters in reeling off those 12 straight, mainly on the combined offensive efforts of Alexa Pennington and Mikayla Akers, who between them scored all 12. The Lady Senators finally got on the board at the two-minute mark with a three-pointer by Kayleigh Coleman, but another Akers basket left the home team with a 14-3 lead after the first eight minutes.
“Any time you can get off to a start like that it is nice,” added Claytor. “We came out of the gate fast and furious. Pennington and Akers were their normal steady selves. They have been doing a little bit of everything for us and I believe they both had doubles doubles tonight.”
The Lady Senators made their own push at the start of the second quarter getting a pair of three-point goals to pull within 18-11. The Lady Dragons were not phased as they scored the game’s next 8 points, sparked by senior Kristen Grooms and freshman Jaycee Baldwin off the bench. Another Pennington score put West Union up 26-11 with four minutes left in the half.
The second period was one of the best offensive quarters the Lady Dragons have had in quite some time as they scored 26 points, most of them in transition as they continually beat the Lady Senators back down the floor, playing unselfish and finding the open teammates for easy scores.
“We stress ball movement every day in practice,” said Claytor. “When it clicks, it looks good, especially when we can get out in the open floor. This was a game I especially thought we had an advantage in transition so we wanted to exploit that and I thought we did a great job of it.”
“Our ball movement was the best it has been all year.”
A nice baseline drive by Kaylee Welch and then two free throws later by the sophomore guard, plus a nice three-point play off the bench by Kiersten Rowe helped the Lady Dragons to a 40-22 halftime advantage.
The two teams played an almost even third quarter, with an early three from Pennington extending the West Union lead to 43-25. After a fast-paced up and down first half, the third period slowed to a snail’s pace, mainly due to an abundance of whistles and fouls, as the two teams combined to shoot 19 free throws, 13 of those by Portsmouth West. Even with all those free attempts, the Lady Senators still could not make much of a dent in the West Union lead, as the Lady Dragons got late baskets from Akers and Baldwin to lead 53-36 heading into the final quarter.
A basket by Kristen Grooms and an Akers free throw stretched the margin to 56-36 and the scoring pace slowed for both sides for the final seven minutes of the contest. A late steal and ensuing short jumper by Shannon Runyan were the final West Union points of the evening as the Lady Dragons picked up win number three, 63-44 over the visiting Lady Senators.
In the win, Alexa Pennington led the Lady Dragons and all scorers with 19 points, followed by Mikayla Akers with 15 and Kaylee Welch and Jaycee Baldwin with 9 apiece. Kristen Grooms added 5 to the winning cause.
“Welch and Baldwin really played well for us tonight,” said Coach Claytor. “They both brought us great energy and it’s nice to get that kind of energy off the bench. I thought Kristen Grooms played her best game of the year. She made some really nice passes, especially in transition.”
Portsmouth West was paced by 11 points from Makayla White and 10 from Terra Butcher.
The Lady Dragons (3-2) were right back in action on Thursday night, with the very unenviable task of hitting the road for a Southern Hills Athletic Conference match up with powerhouse Lynchburg-Clay. They will remain in conference play on Monday, Dec. 14 when they travel again, this time to Ripley.