Wheaton’s hot start produces win
Lady Bulldogs top Pierce City, 50-44
A hot start for the Wheaton girls basketball team produced a 50-44 overtime win over Pierce City on Thursday.
The Lady Bulldogs (8-9) popped a trio of three-pointers, two from Allison Williams and one from Lori McNeill, for a 9-0 lead, then they extended the gap to 16-3 at the end of the first quarter.
By halftime, the lead had been cut to 23-18, and the ballgame’s first tied score since the zeroes came at 33-33 with 1:23 left in the third.
Wheaton managed to stay tied or ahead for the remainder of the game. The score was knotted again at 42-42 with 48 seconds left, which held until Pierce City got the ball on a turnover with 4.6 second to go.
The inbound pass was tipped out by Lily Ray, leaving 3.5 seconds. Pierce City got the ball in and drove for a running jumper from about 14 feet out. The shot glanced off the backboard and rim, sending the game into an extra four minutes tied at 42-42.
In overtime, Wheaton did as it did in the opening frame, going on a 7-1 run and hanging on to win the contest by 6. Ray’s 4 points via free throws and Monica Hinojosa’s 3 charity stripe ticks sealed the win.
Jessica Lombard, Wheaton coach, said her team’s ability to finish was welcomed.
“We only have one senior who mostly played off the bench, so most of our team is sophomores and juniors,” she said. “Closing games last year was a struggle for us, and we couldn’t finish, so that’s where we’ve really grown. We were able to get ourselves out into a position to finish the game.”
Lombard said with limited numbers, only seven available, defense has been paramount.
“Each of our players has to do more than what they have in the past,” she said. “I am big on defense and always have been. The girls gave their best, and I was proud of the stops they made defensively and that they did not hesitate offensively.”
The win gives the Lady Bulldogs a head of steam going into conference play, where they are 1-0 after a win over Thomas Jefferson earlier this season.
“The Ozark 7 is one of the hardest,” Lombard said. “College Heights is always the one to beat, but I think we can go head-to-head with them for first or second in the conference.
“That all depends on the girls being ready to show up and execute.”
Going forward, the Lady Bulldogs are looking to stay strong mentally.
“We want to keep doing what we are doing and start games off right,” Lombard said. “Against Pierce City, we were aggressive. We got into a little foul trouble, but we kept our heads and finished the game.”
Low numbers, a lack of size and not an apparent depth in athleticism may look like negatives for the Wheaton squad, but Lombard said that’s something Wheaton has always overcome.
“When people look at us, they think, “Wow, this will be what it is,’” Lombard said. “We surprise people, and I’m proud of the girls and their effort. Sometimes we struggle having only seven girls, and some aren’t really ready for varsity play, but this bunch can hold their own.”
Wheaton faced McAuley Catholic on Tuesday. Results were not available at presstime. The Lady Bulldogs hit the road Friday to face College Heights. Tip-off is set for 5 p.m.
Scoring for Wheaton: Monica Hinojosa, 21; Lori McNeill, 9; Lily Ray, 8; Allison Whitman, 8; Giovanna Hinojosa, 4.
Scoring for Pierce City: Jones, 24; Katie Tindell, 9; Keishia Delgado, 4; Chelsey Puckett, 3; Madison Tindell, 2; and Olivia Stanphill, 2.