It was an all-county battle on Thursday, Dec. 17 at West Union High School as the Lady Dragons hosted the Lady Hounds of Manchester in Southern Hills Athletic Conference action. Both teams were looking to bounce back from bad defeats as the Lady Dragons had played very poorly in a loss at Ripley while the Lady Hounds had suffered a drubbing at the hands of Fayetteville. For Manchester, the situation was even more critical as Coach Jacie Simon had only eight healthy players dressed for the varsity game and after a concussion, two girls fouling out, and another running out of quarters,played the final 2:22 with just four players on the court.
For West Union head coach Jason Claytor, it was a hard-earned victory over an expected tough opponent, though an ugly game in some respects as the two teams combined for 48 turnovers, 31 of those from the Manchester side.
”It’s Manchester-West Union so you know it’s going to be tough,” said Claytor. “I told our girls coming in that they don’t want to lose to you, it doesn’t matter what the records are. The Manchester kids played their tails off tonight.”
“We have talked over and over to our girls about being resilient,” said Coach Simon. “We are pleased with the resiliency and effort we got tonight after we could have easily left our shoulders drooped from Monday night. We have battled injuries and illness since early November. I am hoping the holiday break will give some of our girls a chance to recuperate.”
“We had some kids step up tonight and we are continuing to develop more depth as the season progresses. Our seniors play a bunch and play well and our young kids are starting to understand what we want them to do.”
The game began on a very high note for the visiting Lady Hounds as they came out and scored on their first three possessions to take a quick 6-2 lead. West Union bounced back with two free throws from Mikayla Akers and a basket by Alexa Pennington to tie the game at the 5:37 mark of the first quarter. A nice scoop shot in the lane by Morgan Johnson gave the lead back to the Lady Hounds and after a Darrington White free throw and a basket by Raeanna Stamm, Manchester was up 11-6.
The Lady Dragons got baskets from Pennington and Kristen Grooms to close the gap to one, but the first period ended with a basket by Manchester’s C.J. Hobbs and a 13-10 lead for the Lady Hounds.
Early in the second quarter, the two sides traded baskets “and ones,” Johnson for Manchester and Akers for West Union. Another bucket by Pennington tied the score at 16 and was the beginning of a 5-0 run, capped by a score from Jaycee Baldwin. With the Lady Dragons up 21-17, Manchester went downtown to take back the lead, getting back to back three-pointers from Johnson and Hobbs.
The back and forth trend continued as two Akers free throws tied the score at 23 and a basket by Grooms put West Union back in front. The exciting first half concluded appropriately when Hobbs drilled a three off the right win with 25 second left, sending the Lady Hounds to the locker room with a 26-25 lead.
After the 51-point first half, the third quarter was certainly not a lesson in offensive efficiency as the two teams combined for a grand total of 9 points. A basket by Manchester’s Josie Campbell began the quarter and the Dragons answered with a free throw and score from Kendall Gallowitz to tie the game for the fourth time. Another score by Baldwin gave West Union the advantage but a basket by the Hounds’ Kylie Lucas with 41 seconds left in the third period tied it for the fifth time and sent the two teams to the fourth quarter with the outcome still seriously in doubt.
Looking to grab the momentum, the Lady Dragons roared ahead in the fourth quarter, scoring on their first three possessions in a 7-0 run. A three-pointer by Grooms began the run and scores by Kiersten Rowe and Pennington gave the home team a 37-30 lead just a minute into the period. Coach Simon used a timeout and it worked as the Lady Hounds answered with two Hobbs free throws and another three-point play by Johnson to pull back within two.
Back came the Lady Dragons to score five of the game’s next seven points, but a pair of Lucas free throws kept Manchester within striking distance. With 3:07 left, the “numbers” problems began for the Lady Hounds when Lucas picked up her fifth foul. Baldwin hit both ensuing free throws to put West Union up 44-39 and just moments later, Manchester was down to four available players as Hobbs picked up her fifth personal. Grooms hit one of two free throws and when the Lady Dragons got the ball back after a Manchester miss, Coach Claytor decided to take the air out and wind down the clock.
In the final two minutes, West Union got free throws from McKenzie Kirker, two from Akers, and two more from Shannon Runyan to hang on tho their lead and eventually post the 50-42 victory.
The victorious Lady Dragons, who improved to 4-4 on the season (1-4 SHAC), were led in scoring by 13 points off the bench by freshman Jaycee Baldwin. Mikayla Akers scored 11, getting just one field goal, but nailing 9 of 11 from the charity stripe. Kristen Grooms and Alexa Pennington scored 8 points apiece for the winners.
Manchester, who fell to 1—6 on the season (0-6 SHAC), was led in scoring by steady senior Morgan Johnson, who tallied 14 points. Joining Johnson in double figures was sophomore C.J. Hobbs, who put up 10, with Kylie Lucas adding 8.
The Lady Hounds fell to 1-7 on Saturday, Dec. 19 when they dropped a 54-37 decision at Williamsburg.
Both teams now direct their attention to the 2015 McDonald’s Classic, where the Lady Dragons were in action first, facing the Peebles Lady Indians, looking to avenge a Dec. 3 loss, in semi-final action on Tuesday, Dec. 22. The Manchester girls will be in action tonight (Dec. 23) facing off with the North Adams Lady Devils. Both of these contests will be played at North Adams High School with 6 p.m. tip off times.
“The Classic is such an unbelievable atmosphere,” said Coach Claytor. “We play in front of probably the biggest crowds we play in front of all year so all those people get to see the hard work the girls put in. We know what happened last time we played Peebles so we have some motivation.”