Pirates get first-round victory
WILLIAMSBURG — Williamsburg has a proud history in high school girls basketball, including a PIAA championship win in 1997, but the program has struggled in recent years following the retirement of longtime coach Don Appleman.
With their current young core, the Lady Pirates have their eyes on a return to that tradition and took a big step Monday night with a 49-41 victory over Blacklick Valley in the District 6 Class 1A quarterfinals.
“It’s been five years since we were able to get past the first round of districts,” Williamsburg coach Amy Hileman said. “We’re definitely excited about getting into the semifinals. We’re young, so we’re excited to keep learning and gaining experience.”
Williamsburg dominated the paint in the first half against Blacklick and carried a 27-14 lead into the locker room. Jayla Woodruff, who finished with eight points and a game-high 11 rebounds, said it was important to be aggressive early.
“It was really exciting to win a playoff game, especially after sitting out last year,” Woodruff said. “Just concentrated on where the ball went up, going and getting it and looking for the outlet, and it worked out well.”
Kendel Norris, who led the Lady Pirates with 14 points, scored 12 of those in the first half as Williamsburg seized control.
“We took it to them in the first quarter,” Hileman said. “We got them out of their zone and into a man, and we got some easy baskets inside from Kendel Norris, who started off on fire tonight.”
The Lady Pirates held Blacklick Valley star senior and Saint Francis commit Maria McConnell in check in the first half, limiting the 1,000-point career scorer to just three points. McConnell and her teammates got things going early in the fourth quarter with a 6-0 run by using a full-court press that cut Williamsburg’s lead to 38-31.
Megan Palmer hit a key jump shot with 5:05 left for Williamsburg to break the run and halt Blacklick Valley’s momentum.
“That’s a good team. Williamsburg is a good team,” Blacklick Valley coach Rich Price said. “They are physical, strong and we knew it was going to be a dog fight and that we had to play a really good game and limit our mistakes. They made more plays than us in the first half. It was an uphill battle. I knew we couldn’t press the entire game. We picked our spots. We did a great job. I was proud of our girls, and it was a great effort. We gave them everything we could, but they made a couple more shots than we did.”
Williamsburg regained its composure and its double-digit lead with a pair of free throws from Woodruff with 41 seconds left, and McConnell hit a pair of 3-pointers in the final 30 seconds to set the final. She finished with a game-high 16 points. Fellow senior Emily Marines added six points and nine rebounds.
“We have five seniors in Haley Teeter, Emmie George, Madison Smith, Maria McConnell and Emily Marines that we’re going to miss,” Price said. “You can talk about their basketball skills, but we’re also going to miss their personalities, their work ethic and we’re going to miss them as people. We’ll move on, and they’ll move on and have a great life. I’m proud of them, and I wish them well on their journey.”
Williamsburg’s next step toward rebuilding its program will be a big one — getting past state-ranked and top-seeded Bishop Guilfoyle Catholic in the semifinals currently scheduled for Thursday at Pleasant Valley Gymnasium.
“BG dropped to Class 1A after getting their playoff run cut short last year, so we know how bad they want it this year,” Hileman said. “But we’re always up for a challenge. We’re always up for stepping up to play, especially when it’s a program like BG. I’m sure the girls will be amped up.”
BLACKLICK VALLEY (41): McConnell 6 0-0 16, Marines 2 2-3 6, Slobodnik 1 0-0 2, Zimmerman 3 3-6 9, Teeter 1 0-0 2, Kllinger 1 2-3 4, Smith 1 0-0 2, George 0 0-0 0. Totals — 15 7-12 41.
WILLIAMSBURG (49): Hileman 4 0-0 8, Woodruff 3 2-2 8, Norris 6 2-2 14, Palmer 4 1-2 10, Simpson 1 1-2 3, Carper 0 2-2 2, Ward 2 0-2 4, Stewart 0 0-0 0, Prough 0 0-0 0. Totals — 20 8-12 49.
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Blacklick Valley 8 6 11 16 — 41
Williamsburg 14 13 9 13 — 49
3-point goals: Blacklick Valley 4 (McConnell); Williamsburg 1 (Palmer).
Records: Blacklick Valley (12-7); Williamsburg (9-3).
Officials: Tim Hite, Larry Stitt, Joe Scialabba.