The beat went on for the Williamsburg Lady Wildcats on Thursday, Jan. 5 as Tara Dennis and Heidi McManus led their team past Southern Buckeye Conference National Division opponent Batavia, 64-34.
After a delayed start due to an injury at the end of the junior varsity game that caused the tilt to be called with 22.6 seconds remaining, Batavia, the home side, came out in a press that fell back into a two-three zone.
The Lady Bulldogs looked to be out-hustling the Lady Wildcats early on, jumping on some loose balls and converting them into easy buckets.
“Our girls are pretty athletic, they work hard and they have heart this year,” Batavia head coach Beth Wolfer said after the game. “They really want to win and we’re improving from where we were last year. We try to get hands on loose balls and double team as much as we can.”
Despite the Batavia hustle, the Williamsburg duo of Dennis and McManus showed their mettle, hitting some early three-pointers to get out to a 10-3 lead, but the Bulldogs fought back to close the gap to 10-8 by the end of the quarter.
Batavia kept their pressure up in the second quarter, but McManus turned into a one-man-press break.
“If she’s not in the ball game, we’re not a very good team,” Williamsburg head coach Ken Lowe said. “You know how much she means to us by the way she’s able to handle the ball and the way she sees things. She’s got good vision over the floor.”
Wolfer was impressed by the strides McManus has made over the past year in terms of her ball handling skills.
“I think [our press] did a good job, but McManus, from where she was last year to this year, I didn’t think she could handle the ball that well.”
As McManus handled the pressure, Batavia was scrambling to get back and find the Williamsburg shooters. Dennis, a 6-foot senior forward, showed her versatility, going both inside and out, scoring 12 second quarter points that included two-three pointers. McManus added seven points in the quarter that saw the Lady Wildcats outscore Batavia 21-7 to take a 31-15 halftime lead.
For all the hard work the Lady Bulldogs put in, Williamsburg made them pay for even their slightest mistake, making seemingly every open shot they looked at.
“This is the first game that we really shot well from the floor. This is the best we’ve shot all year,” Lowe said. “We shared the ball. It wasn’t like Tara and Heidi had to do it all. Today was a great team effort.”
Williamsburg made sure they put the game out of reach early on in the third quarter and again, it was Dennis and McManus leading the way, combining for 13 points in the quarter.
Unfortunately for the Lady Bulldogs, the Williamsburg run coincided with a scary moment for freshman Sam McElfresh who landed awkwardly on her bad knee.
“She had ACL surgery and she came back after five months,” Wolfer said. “She landed on her knee cap. She’s having some tightness in her leg muscle anyway, so I hope it’s not a serious injury.”
With the game out of reach by the end of the third quarter, both teams were able to tinker with their lineups and strategies. Williamsburg was able to get some players from the end of the bench some quality playing time against an active press and Batavia was able to get some game experience with their half-court sets.
With the 64-34 win, Williamsburg improved to 6-4 on the season, winning six of their last seven games after dropping the first three to open the season.
“When we have a point guard like Heidi McManus who stays out of foul trouble, we’re going to be a really good team,” Lowe said of what has changed since staring 0-3. “As a coaching staff, we’ve changed some things around that is beneficial to these kids. Because of the changes that we made, it makes our team better than we have been and there is a better understanding amongst the kids. They have faith and belief in themselves and right now they’re truly believing in themselves and playing well.”
Williamsburg had a week off and will travel to Blanchester on Thursday, Jan. 12 to face the 5-4 Lady Wildcats.
As for Batavia, Wolfer believes that their slow start is the cause of a tough early season schedule and expects production to pick up down the home stretch of the season.
“Our first half of the season was more difficult [with the teams we’ve played], so I feel like the beginning of the season, we had our toughest games,” Wolfer said. “We have nine more games and from here on out I feel like we have some winnable games.”
Batavia was back in action on Tuesday, Jan. 10 at Amelia and will play at Felicity on Thursday, Jan. 12.
Williamsburg (6-4)—McManus 8 0 20, Wetzel 1 3 5, Meisberger 0 1 1, Dennis 13 0 30, Gifford 3 0 6, Guess 2 0 4.Totals: 27 4 64.
Batavia (3-6)—Taulbee 2 0 4, Wagner 1 0 2, Bauer 1 0 2, White 2 0 4, O’Brien 2 1 5, Everhart 1 3 5, Fraley 2 2 6, McElfresh 2 2 6. Totals: 13 8 34.