Classic in the Country

Lady Knights dig a hole and can’t come back in 50-41 loss to Hopewell-Loudon at CitC

Paige Race ignited a comeback off the bench for Lady Knights with 20 points
Photos by James Wagler

West Holmes literally had a tall order when it faced Hopewell-Loudon in game 11 of Classic in the Country XVI on Monday, Jan. 21 at the Reese Center in Berlin.

Long and talented center Makayla Elmore presented a mismatch nightmare for Lindsy Snyder’s Lady Knights, and in the end the versatile center poured in 27 points and racked up 14 rebounds in the Chieftains’ 50-41 win.

“We dug ourselves a nice, gigantic hole to climb out of, and we were never able to get all the way back,” West Holmes head coach Lindsy Snyder said. “Our first half we struggled badly, and it ended up being the difference tonight.”

While Elmore was the main cog, it was savvy guard Olivia Zender who actually kick-started the Chieftains to their early big lead that made it very difficult for West Holmes to come back.

“I’ve had some rough spots this year where I couldn’t make anything but today felt comfortable like my shot was there,” Zender said.

Zender connected on a trio of long-balls in the game’s first 10 minutes that put the Lady Knights in a 21-8 hole. While West Holmes struggled mightily on offense early, they finally got going when Hannah Rohr hit a lay-up, Paige Race canned a 3-pointer and Katie Sprang connected on a jumper in the lane to get WHHS to within 21-15. However, showing off her versatility, Elmore book-ended a Sprang jumper with a pair of step-back 3-pointers, and the Chieftains held a 27-17 lead at intermission.

“I felt like our match-up zone did a good job the first half,” Chieftains head coach Bob Gase said. “Some teams struggle with that because it is somewhere in between a man and a zone.”

While Elmore dominated in the paint to keep West Holmes at bay, Race was taking over the game, scoring five points on a series of free throws created off the dribble. By the time Regan Wilcox scored on a put-back and Sprang knocked down a short jumper, the Lady Knights had crept back to within 34-28 at the end of the third period.

It got even closer in the fourth. Race drilled a triple after an Elmore free throw. Zender connected on a trey of her own, her fourth, before Race went coast to coast for a score and then completed an and-one that got the Lady Knights to within 38-36, the closest it had been since the opening tip.

“They wouldn’t be here if they weren’t going to make a run,” Gase said of the Lady Knights. “We knew they pressed well.”

Unfortunately the Chieftains had All-Ohioan Elmore, who took over to seal the deal. She scored inside, and after Wilcox and Elmore traded single free throws, Race fired off a 3-pointer with one minute to play that went down in and spun out, leaving the Lady Knights trailing by four. Makenzie Coleman hit a big bucket inside, and Race hit two free throws with 44 seconds to play to make it 45-41, but Elmore took care of business from there, hitting 5-of-6 free throws to help preserve the H-L victory.

“This was really fun. I enjoyed it,” Elmore said. “All of this exposure and even our drive down here was really different. I am used to playing in front of people and having scouts watching, so this was nothing new. I just went out and played my game. I think one big advantage I have on a lot of bigs is that I am faster, so I use that to move inside and outside. I haven’t shot a lot from outside, but I can shoot the three.”

Aside from Elmore’s big effort, Zender added 13 points before fouling out. Coleman added eight points and four boards. West Holmes got a huge effort from Race off the bench, her 20 points accounting for nearly half of West Holmes’ total. Sprang also played well before fouling out, racking up 14 points and a pair of steals.

Despite the presence of Elmore, the Lady Knights continued to shine on the glass, where they led in rebounding 32-22. Wilcox snared seven to lead West Holmes while Taylor Miller grabbed six and Alicia Alexander pulled down five.

“We struggled guarding Elmore all night, and we knew she was going to be their focal point,” Snyder said. “We wanted to limit her touches by running a lot of kids at her, but in the first half we kind of just stepped aside and said, ‘Here, score.’ In the second half we worked a lot harder on her and made her touches so much more difficult.”

While Snyder loved her team’s enthusiasm and effort in the second half, she said playing lethargically in the first half put them in a hole that they could not overcome.

“We still need to play hard for four quarters,” Snyder said. “The first half we played reactive basketball and we were slow to make plays, and here, you have to make plays. We need to get out there and get after it like we did the entire second half, where we really did a much better job of getting after it. If we can find that fight and that chip-on-your-shoulder attitude, we are a different team. Even though I don’t like the word potential, I think we have a lot of it. You look around in our locker room, and we have the potential to be a good team. We have kids that mesh together and do good things. We all want the same thing; we just haven’t figured out yet how to reach that potential. We’ve seen bits and pieces, and once we finally figure it out, I can see us taking off.”

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