Derrick Webb, Staff Writer
WAVERLY — If you’re looking for the most underrated player in the SOC II, your search shouldn’t need to go any further than Waverly’s Paige Carter.
This season, the junior has consistently turned in strong performances while controlling the glass and giving aid to the scoring column. Monday night was no different in the Tigers’ 38-32 win over Minford in league action.
Carter posted a double-double with 18 points and 10 rebounds, leading all players in both categories. Her contributions, combined with the second half play of freshman Kelli Stewart, lifted Waverly (11-5, 6-4 SOC II) to an important victory.
“Paige just gives you everything she has, night in and night out,” Waverly coach John Bonifield said. “For being 5-foot-8, she plays like she’s 6-foot. She can finish with her left and she can finish with her right. We’ve been kind of getting on her all year long about taking those 15-foot jump shots. Tonight, she knocked down one or two of those. Her confidence is sky-high and we rely on her so much. Grit. Toughness. Determination. She brings each of those every single night.”
While Carter carried the offensive load, Bonifield’s team put forth a total team effort on the defensive end.
In the first half, Minford’s Livi Shonkwiler had 10 points to help give the Falcons a 19-18 lead at halftime. However, Shonkwiler never scored again while the Tigers forced 22 turnovers.
PHOTOS: Images from Waverly’s 38-32 win over Minford
“We made a minor adjustment in the second half and put Carli [Knight] on [Shonkwiler],” Bonifield said. “But basically, I just called out the whole team and told them that Shonkwiler is a great player and we had to account for her. I just thought we were making things too easy. Our goal in the second half was to make [Minford] earn everything. We wanted to make it a little more challenging. I challenged the girls and they responded. You like to see that.”
Waverly’s Zoiee Smith started the night’s scoring with a bucket at the 7:35 mark in the first quarter. From there, the Falcons (6-10, 4-7 SOC II) went on a 7-0 run behind two baskets from Shonkwiler and 3-ball from Maddie Slusher. Carter then hit her first two shots before Minford’s Ally Coriell got a putback to go, giving Minford a 9-6 lead after the first eight minutes.
Shonkwiler and Coriell then paced the Falcons to a 19-14 lead with 1:09 left in the second. But the Tigers ended the half on a 4-0 burst, cutting the lead to 19-18 at the break.
In the third, Minford’s Hannah Tolle hit a 3 to stretch the lead to 22-18. That four-point edge would remain at 26-22 before the Tigers closed out the quarter by hitting 3-of-4 free throw attempts.
Trailing 26-25 with 6:29 left, freshman Kelli Stewart gave Waverly a 27-26 lead. She then scored again 21 seconds later to make it a 29-26 edge. The lead never changed hands again.
“Kelli has a bright future,” Bonifield said. “She’s athletic. She’s tough to defend. I think it took her awhile to adjust to varsity basketball and all of our sets and plays. But I think she’s getting more comfortable. Everything is starting to come together for her, and that’s not just her scoring. She’s rebounding the ball well and she’s being aggressive. She gives us another option.”
Tolle cut Waverly’s lead to 31-30 with 3:26 to go but Carter answered with a bucket on the other end. Slusher scored Minford’s final bucket with 2:12 remaining and, from there, the Tigers hit their free throws to put the game on ice.
Following Carter’s 18 points and 10 rebounds, Stewart added seven points and three boards. Smith also had seven points alongside four rebounds and three assists.
Shonkwiler led Minford with 10 points, seven rebounds and two assists while Tolle had seven points and five boards. Ally Coriell also enjoyed a solid night, finishing with eight points and a team-high eight rebounds.
“We just have to sit down and play defense. That’s what we did tonight,” Bonfield said. “We had a great week of practice and a week off with an odd number of teams in our league. We got back to the basics … talking on defense and making it difficult for other teams to score. I like the fact that we gave up 32 points tonight, 13 in the second half. I think it sank in and I told them that, as long as we’re sitting down and playing defense, we can win any game.”
Minford: 9-10-7-6 — 32
Waverly: 6-12-7-13 — 38
Minford: 15-47 FG, 0-0 FT, 2-13 3 pt., 31 rebounds (Coriell 8), 22 turnovers, 6 assists (Shonkwiler 2). Scoring: Shonkwiler 10, Coriell 8, Tolle 7, Slusher 5, Mougey 2.
Waverly: 13-48 FG, 12-18 FT, 0-6 3 pt., 27 rebounds (Carter 10), 11 turnovers, 6 assists (Smith 3). Scoring: Carter 18, Stewart 7, Smith 7, Rhoads 2, Knight 2, Dale 2.