The Lady Wildcats force-fed Whiteoak a steady diet of Tara Dennis and Heidi McManus as Williamsburg put a hurting on visiting Whiteoak on Tuesday, Dec. 27, 75-26.
“I understand where (Whiteoak’s) at because (Williamsburg) used to be exactly where they are now, they’re trying to rebuild,” Williamsburg head coach Ken Lowe said following the game. “Their kids continued to play, they didn’t quit and that says a lot about their program and their coaches.”
The final score is no indication of what the first half of basketball really showed. While Williamsburg was able to jump out to an early 7-2 lead, Whiteoak didn’t back down or shy away from the bigger Lady Wildcats.
Dennis was able to finish around the basket at will, but the Lady Wildcats’ defense didn’t do much to slow Whiteoak’s offense as they held a four-point lead after one quarter 16-12.
Jessie Gilliand, a 5-foot-6 senior guard for Whiteoak, single-handily kept the Lady Cats in the game in the first half scoring 14 points.
“She was a pain in my behind,” Lowe said of Gilliand. “She’s a good ball player. She seems to understand the game.”
As Williamsburg started to key in on Gilliand, forcing her to give up the ball, the Lady Wildcats saw an opportunity to pull away. With the score 28-20, Williamsburg, with a little over three minutes remaining the first half, Tara Dennis went on her own eight-to-nothing run that highlighted every aspect of her game.
The run was started with Dennis pulling down an offensive rebound and scoring a put-back while being fouled. The next time down the floor, Dennis stepped out to the wing and knocked down a three. She finished her own offensive onslaught as she leaked out on a Whiteoak turnover to get an easy layup.
When Lowe pulled Dennis for a breather with just over a minute remaining, the Lady Wildcats’ led 36-20.
“Tara’s a special player here at Williamsburg,” Lowe said. “She’s approaching scoring 1,000 points. She’s just got to realize her potential. She’s a special player because she brings so much to this team; her outside and inside scoring abilities and her rebounding ability.”
To top off the first half, McManus stole the ball from Gilliand at half court as the Lady Cats attempted to set up a last shot opportunity and calmly took the ball the other way for an easy two before the buzzer.
Between Dennis and McManus, they scored 35 of the Lady Wildcats 38 first-half points.
The Williamsburg lead was 16 at the break, 38-22 and it would only grow bigger.
Whiteoak made some adjustments in the locker room, one of which was playing a box-and-one zone with a defender face-guarding Dennis all over the court. And while the Lady Cats were able to virtually shut down Dennis in the third quarter, allowing her only three points, the attention that she caused left McManus and Sarah Wetzel open for some jump shots.
“When Heidi stays out of foul trouble and just plays, being the point guard, she’s a good player,” Lowe said. “Tonight, she stayed out of foul trouble.”
McManus added 12 more points in the second half and Wetzel scored nine.
“Sarah Wetzel stepped up and played well, she’s been playing well for the last three game,” said Lowe.
The aspect of Williamsburg’s game plan that really came to fruition in the second half was their ability to defend. Where Whiteoak was able to dribble-drive and get off close-range shots in the first half, the Lady Wildcats shut down those lanes in the second half, allowing the Lady Cats to score just four points in the entire second half.
“We talked about staying in front of Gilliand. In the first half, we allowed her carte blanche to get to the basket,” Lowe said. “We asked them to stay in front at halftime and our defensive effort in the second half, our help-side defense did a tremendous job.”
After the third quarter, the Lady Wildcats had opened up a 53-24 lead, giving Lowe the opportunity to get some of his players from further down the bench into the game. Sophomores Sam Clark and Mallory Guess stepped up, scoring 11 points between them.
“We’re not as deep as I would like to be,” Lowe said, “but we got some kids down at the reserve level. They got in towards the end of the game and it seems like now I’m able to put those kids in and they understand what we’re doing.”
Williamsburg improved to 5-4 on the season with the win and sit in second place in the Southern Buckeye Conference National Division behind undefeated Georgetown.
Dennis led all scorers with 26 points while McManus was right behind her with 24.
The Lady Wildcats take the floor again on January 5 when they travel to Batavia to face the Lady Bulldogs.
Whiteoak – Gilliand 8 0 16, Stratton 1 0 2, Bohl 1 0 2, Luman 0 2 2, Johnson 1 0 2, Gorman 0 2 2. Totals: 11 4 26.
Williamsburg- (5-4) – McManus 10 0 24, Wetzel 4 1 9, Clark 2 0 4, Dennis 10 4 26, Wagers 1 1 3, Gifford 1 0 2, Guess 3 1 7. Totals: 31 7 75.
Halftime: Williamsburg 38-22. 3-pointers: Wi. 6 (McManus 4, Dennis 2).