Makenna Walker
Derrick Webb

Derrick Webb

Derrick is SOSA's chief content coordinator and has worked for the Chillicothe Gazette, the Portsmouth Daily Times and Eleven Warriors. He's a 13-time award-winning journalist, a self-proclaimed baseball purist, a suffering Bengals fan and has never met a stranger.

Wheelersburg wins early season conference showdown at West

The Pirates stay undefeated with the victory and switch into the driver's seat in the SOC II.

Derrick Webb, Staff Writer

WEST PORTSMOUTH — There’s a lot of basketball left to be played this winter.

But if you’re sitting where Wheelersburg’s girls are right now, you have to feel good about the direction in which your season is going.

Wheelersburg’s Alaina Keeney scored a game-high 23 points in Thursday’s win over West.
CREDIT: Derrick Webb/SOSA

The Pirates stayed perfect on Thursday on the West side of Portsmouth, handing the Senators their first loss by a 51-46 final — a game that truly lived up to its billing between two of the Southern Ohio Conference’s best.

The win gives Wheelersburg (5-0, 4-0 SOC II) victories over Waverly, South Webster and West in SOC II play. And while that puts the Pirates in the driver’s seat to win the league title, nothing is assured.

“It was a tournament-like atmosphere. You have to find ways to score points and we found enough tonight,” Wheelersburg coach Dusty Spradlin said. “I’m proud of how we played tonight. We battled and even though we weren’t great offensively, we found a way to get it done and we were pretty sound on the defensive end.”

One thing is for certain, however. Alaina Keeney is going to terrorize any opposing defense.

Wheelersburg’s senior scoring leader paced the team’s offense on Thursday, scoring a game-high 23 points. When the Pirates needed a score in the most dire times, Keeney provided the answer.

“She has been fantastic,” Spradlin said of Keeney. “I know we’ve only played five games but she has been fantastic to start the year. That’s been a challenge. With [former Wheelersburg guard] Kaylee [Darnell] gone, Alaina is drawing a lot of attention. She’s gladly stepped into that role and she’s played well. We’re hoping she’s going to play that well throughout the season.”

Tale of the tape

Keeney began the scoring with a deep ball at the 7:26 mark in the first quarter — and Wheelersburg never relinquished that lead. Lexie Rucker made it a 5-0 game before West’s Emma Sayre put the Senators (6-1, 4-1 SOC II) on the board with 4:49 left.

Rucker scored again to make it 7-2 before West battled back to tie the game at 7-7, courtesy of two free throws and a 3 from Lexi Deaver. But the Pirates, behind Rucker and Keeney, took an 11-8 lead into the second.

Madison Whittaker put Wheelersburg ahead 15-10 with 5:08 left in the first half before Keeney later scored to keep the five-point lead intact at 18-13. However, the Senators ended the second on a 6-2 run, thanks to Sayre, Abby Adkins and Maelynn Howell, for a 20-19 halftime tally.

“[Having the experience] is great. We’ve been here before in big games,” Keeney said. “We’re playing well right now, and well off each other. We’re getting each other open and finding ways to score.”

PHOTOS: Images from Wheelersburg’s win over West

Rucker began the third with a bucket before Keeney connected from long range for a 25-19 lead with 7:04 left. After Keeney hit a free throw to make it 26-19, Deaver and Howell both scored, cutting the deficit to 26-23.

Keeney, within the next two minutes, hit two triples to extend Wheelersburg’s lead to 34-25 — the team’s largest of the night. However, the Senators refused to go anywhere for good.

Down 36-27 with less than two minutes to go in the third, Deaver scored and Sayre hit a pair of free throws to make it 36-31 heading into the fourth. Howell then started the fourth with a bucket before Keima Bennett scored at the 6:06 mark, ending an 8-0 run and making it 36-35.

The Pirates, relying on their experience, stayed the course, though.

Makenna Walker hit two free throws before Keeney scored to make it a 42-37 tally with 4:06 remaining. Adkins — who was phenomenal late — buried a 3 to bring the Senators to within two. Keeney then scored before Adkins hit another 3 with 1:31 left, making it 44-43. 

But that’s when West’s offense went cold. Meanwhile, Wheelersburg hit its free throws. 

Rucker, Keeney and Kiera Kennard combined to nail 4-of-6 tries from the charity stripe to, ultimately, put the game out of reach as time winded down.

“It was a great win. West is a great team and it’s always a battle every year,” Keeney said. “This will be good for us leading into further play. Our motto this year is ‘together.’ If we keep playing together, we’ll keep playing well.”

Stat book

Following Keeney’s 23 points, which came alongside six rebounds, was Rucker, who collected 13 points and six boards. Walker had seven points and eight rebounds, and Madison Whittaker added five rebounds to the team’s totals.

Deaver led the Senators with 11 points, seven rebounds and three assists while Adkins added a team-high 12 points. Sayre finished with nine points and six rebounds, and Howell had eight points and six boards.

What’s on tap

Wheelersburg is back in action on Saturday, playing against Huntington St. Joseph Central (W. Va.) in the Shawnee State Buckeye Elite Classic. Meanwhile, West will attempt to bounce back on Monday at Valley.

“We don’t want to overplay any game. The truth of the matter is that it’s still early. I’d rather be a game ahead [in the league title race] than a game behind. But there’s a ton of games left and you don’t know what’s going to happen,” Spradlin said. “West is certainly more than capable of coming to Wheelersburg and winning. So is South Webster. So we have to keep getting better.”


Wheelersburg: 11-9-16-15 — 51

West: 8-11-12-15 — 46

Wheelersburg: 17-47 FG, 13-23 FT, 4-11 3pt., 32 rebounds (Walker 8), 16 turnovers, 9 assists (Kennard 3). Scoring: Keeney 23, Rucker 13, Walker 7, Coriell 3, Eaton 2, Whittaker 2, Kennard 1.

West: 16-51 FG, 10-15 FT, 4-18 3pt., 25 rebounds (Deaver 7), 14 turnovers, 5 assists (Deaver 3). Scoring: Adkins 12, Deaver 11, Sayre 9, Howell 8, Cline 3, Bennett 2, McDermott 1.


Share this post