A second look at West Holmes’ 42-34 regional final win over Maysville
West Holmes head coach Lisa Patterson’s teams are no strangers to winning basketball games at Zanesville High School. Zanesville, West Holmes’ home-away-from-home, has been very good to this group over the past four seasons. With a fourth straight state appearance having been earned after the Lady Knights heart-pounding 42-34 win Friday, March 13, it marks the fourth straight time Patterson’s teams have ended their year in Columbus at the big dance.
Here is a second look at the behind the scenes stories that played a key role in that scintillating victory, which marked the third straight year Maysville has fallen to West Holmes in the regional final.
A fourth to remember
The Lady Knights were locked up with Maysville in a 25-25 winner-take-all battle in the regional final. Call it experience, call it guts, or call it a mastery over another team, but the Lady Knights’ final eight minutes was nearly picture perfect.
A 17-9 effort gave them a thrill-ride victory and propelled them into the state tournament.
“Anything could have happened, but our composure and confidence was unmatched,” said assistant coach Marlyce Yoder. “That definitely played a key role down the stretch.”
Alex and Alex come through
While neither senior Alex Brown nor classmate Alex Starr scored the first three quarters, they each hit crucial shots in the fourth that helped West Holmes gain a victory.
“They came in here really wanting this win in incredibly bad, but we wanted it just a little bit more,” said Starr. “We were well prepared. We knew they would pressure us, but I just want to do whatever my team needs me to do to win games. If it is scoring, I’ll score. Tonight, I am glad I was able to hit some big points late.”
“I definitely wanted the ball at the end of the game,” said Brown, who knocked down 3-of-4 free throws down the stretch and handled Maysville’s relentless pressure.
As seniors who have played four years of varsity ball, neither Starr nor Brown knows the feeling of losing a tournament game that didn’t end in Columbus.
Half and half
Brittleigh Macaulay didn’t score in the first half. West Holmes’ big inside presence was smothered by a swarming Maysville defense. But after Hannah Clark hurt them outside, the Panthers turned their attention to Clark, and in doing so, freed up Macaulay to do the damage in the second half. She responded with a 10 point effort, crucial to the win.
“I knew I had to keep my composure, and I knew my team needed me, so I felt like the time would come when I would do that,” said Macaulay. “They played great pressure defense on us, but fortunately we face that kind of pressure every day in practice.”
Brooke Smith was Maysville’s go-to guard. A third-team All-Ohioan, Smith slayed plenty of defenses before, but on this night, West Holmes’ guards bugged, bothered and tortured the high-scoring Smith into a 3-for-14 performance, including a tepid 1-of-7 effort from beyond the arc.
“It’s a mind-set,” said Yoder of the defense. “These kids are taught that defensive toughness from an early age, and a lot of teams don’t ever face that kind of defensive pressure and the commitment our kids give on the defensive end every night.”
That is what horrifying defenses can do to a prolific scorer.
“We played terrify defense almost the entire game, and for the most part, that is what won this game for us,” said Patterson. “We felt we needed to keep either Smith or (Kori) Sidwell in check, and maybe if we were lucky both. But we kept one in check, and made Smith earn every one of her eight points. We wanted to crowd her, especially coming over the top of screens.”
The big egg, a Sahara-like drought
The game began with an auspicious start for the Lady Knights. A full eight minutes into the game, both teams were huddling for the second quarter and Maysville had yet to score. West Holmes had put up a nine-spot.
That feel-good moment quickly evaporated, as the Panthers went on a 10-0 run of their own to claim the lead. It was as though Ali and Frazier had stepped back in time, trading punches in the ring, trying to prove to the other their superiority.
“We never panicked,” said Clark. “This is what we work for every day in practice, and we weren’t going to let than run get in our heads. We just kept doing the things we worked on in practice day after day, and in the end we did what we had to do to get a win and get back to state.”
Two role players come up big
Natalie Molnar doesn’t score a ton. She understands her role as an on-ball defender and ball handler. Kacie leppla hasn’t been a huge scorer for West Holmes either. Both would be considered role players, but role players can be stars too, and each was on this night. Molnar drew huge minutes in part because Kylie Leppla found herself in early foul trouble. All she did was handle the pressure like a champ. Leppla became the go-to kid, scoring seven huge points, including 3-of-4 free throws. It was as though they gave a huge shout-out to unheralded players everywhere with their performances.
“Without a doubt, they each played tremendous games for us tonight,” said Patterson. “Kacie scored some huge buckets when we were struggling, and we ask a lot of Nat when we put her in, to go in and play hard-nosed defense, and did she ever. They were a huge part of this victory.”
“This is my kind of game, a physical game,” said Leppla, a sturdy sophomore. “That was awesome, I felt right at home after so many years of beating on my big brother.”