Brock Netter, Staff Writer
WHEELERSBURG — When Wheelersburg’s Kaylee Darnell puts the ball up, it’s almost becoming a near-guarantee that it’s going to cleanly caress nylon.
The junior guard finished with five 3’s Thursday night, all of which came in the first half, and scored 23 points to lead the Pirates to a resounding 56-25 victory over Waverly in SOC II action.
“We’re still working on establishing roles and figuring out some other things,” Wheelersburg coach Dusty Spradlin said. “We have to learn that there is an inside and that the ball needs to flow through there whether its off a pass or a dribble. It’s a balance thing and while our ball movement was really good, we were unsure of whether to go or not. But the ball ended up in Kaylee’s hands, and she shot lights out.”
While Darnell took a bit to heat up, Ellie Kallner was hot to start as she scored the team’s first five points.
Darnell then hit her first 3, off an assist from Kallner, and it was off to the races from there. Darnell scored the Pirates’ final eight points of the first quarter, giving them a 13-7 lead going into the second.
Wheelersburg (8-0, 6-0 SOC II) continued to create separation as Darnell continued to can one triple after another. She connected on three more 3’s, giving her 17 points in the first half alone.
“Thankfully I was hitting, and my teammates did a great job of not only getting me the ball, but getting me open to start with,” Darnell said. “A game like this is a huge confidence boost for us now that we’re 8-0 on the season. We work for each other and do the little things every single night.”
Meanwhile on the defensive side, the duo of Kallner and Alaina Keeney led the charge as they shut down the Tigers’ offense.
They switched on Waverly’s Zoiee Smith, using their length and familiarity to create turnovers and get in the passing lanes while converting on the other end.
That led to Waverly scoring just two points in the second as Wheelersburg led 28-9 at halftime. It was academic from that point until the final buzzer.
“Ellie and Alaina were unbelievable on the defensive side,” Darnell said. “They did a great job of keeping Zoiee out of the paint and limiting her impact. She’s a really good player and Waverly is a good team. We sprinted to our spots defensively and communicated pretty well.”
After Darnell’s final stat line, Kallner and Keeney each finished with eight points while Keeney brought down seven rebounds.
For Waverly (5-2, 3-2 SOC II), Smith finished with a team-high 12 points.
Wheelersburg now goes on a bit of a break before returning to action on Monday, Dec. 30 at Ironton. Waverly is back in action Monday, playing in the Pike County Holiday Classic.
“I don’t think many people realized how much Abbie [Kallner] did for us last year on both sides of the ball, and we’ve come a long way so far,” Spradlin said. “We have new kids in key positions, and it just takes time to find a rhythm. We’re starting to scratch the surface of how good we can be. There’s a lot of talent on this team, and we played a really good game.”
Waverly: 7-2-10-6 — 25
Wheelersburg: 13-15-19-9 — 56
Waverly: 10-36 FG, 2-9 FT, 1-5 3pt., 26 rebounds (Smith 7), 13 turnovers, 3 assists. Scoring: Smith 12, Knight 4, Brown 3, Thompson 2.
Wheelersburg: 11-24 FG, 1-5 FT, 11-30 3pt., 25 rebounds (Kenney 8), 5 turnovers, 13 assists (Kallner, Wolfenbarker 3). Scoring: Darnell 23, Kallner 8, Keeney 8, Coriell 3, Whittaker 3, Walker 3, Wolfenbarker 2, Hamilton 2, Hemibach 2, Eaton 2.