Triway head coach Brian Kiper knew his Titan girls basketball team hadn’t beaten West Holmes in a long, long time, but he wasn’t about to dive into the record books to find out exactly how long ago the Titans had recorded a victory over the Lady Knights. However, someone did his homework for him and let him know that it had been since 1997 that a Titans team had defeated West Holmes.
On Tuesday, Nov. 28 at The Pit at Triway High School, that streak was put to rest when Triway topped West Holmes 47-38, and Triway (2-0) could finally go home happy, having defeated West Holmes (0-2) after two decades of futility.
“I did not look that up,” Kiper said with a laugh after the win. “The administrators looked that up. I told the girls a couple of weeks ago we have been hovering around eight or nine wins the last couple of seasons. If we can get a big win early on and give these girls some confidence, we can run with it and have a good season. Tonight was the night. I don’t care how young and inexperienced they are. They played great defense, and normally when we face defenses like that, we turn the ball over at an alarming rate, and we only had nine turnovers.”
That combined with Tanner Wirth’s ability to get to the free throw line, where she made 16-of-22 free throws, helped the Titans stop that 20-year run of losses, but it was a challenge.
Regan Wilcox put the Titans on high alert on what she was going to provide for West Holmes from the game’s first score when she buried a 3-pointer to put the Lady Knights up 3-0. Wilcox would go on to produce the majority of West Holmes’ points on the strength of five triples, but it wouldn’t be enough.
Triway got a free throw from Wirth and a pair of scores from Olivia Lang to take a 5-3 edge, but Wilcox struck again to put West Holmes back on top 6-5. Wilcox would bury her third trey of the quarter by knocking one down with four seconds left, drawing West Holmes to within 10-9 after one.
Lang then drilled a 3-pointer of her own, and after Charolette Brown hit a free throw, Triway would go on a mini run, getting a jumper from Zoe Carmichael, a pair of free throws from Wirth and another charity toss from McKayla Feikert to forge an 18-10 lead.
That was when Triway had a golden opportunity to push its lead out to double digits and beyond, but even as West Holmes continued to be cold from the floor, so too were the Titans.
West Holmes took advantage of the cold shooting of Triway to creep back in it. Wilcox drove the paint for a score. Brown connected on two free throws, and when Kaylor Perone drove inside and scored, the Titans lead stood at 18-16 at the half.
Hoping to take Wirth out of the rotation and limit her touches, West Holmes coach Lindsy Snyder decided to face guard Wirth and make someone else beat her team. But Wirth was fine with doing whatever was necessary to help her team, and after a seven-minute scoreless streak, the Titans finally got back on track with a pair of Carmichael free throws. Sarah Shoots scored off a great pass from Wirth, and after Wirth split a pair of free throws, West Holmes’ Taylor Miller made a steal and fed Maddie Woods for a layup that cut Triway’s lead to 23-18. That was when Sydney Sherrieb stepped up and buried a key 3-ball that pushed Triway’s lead back to 26-18, and Triway carried a nine-point edge into the final quarter, leading 29-20.
The two teams traded scores through much of the quarter with Wilcox dropping in yet another trey and Wirth continuing her parade to the free throw line.
Meanwhile West Holmes was struggling to score as well and went a lengthy period without a bucket when it could have closed the gap and even taken the lead. Much of that was due to too many turnovers by the young Lady Knights.
“Obviously that comes from our young kids and a lack of experience,” Snyder said. “We are asking a lot of young kids to do a lot of big things, and they are going to have to learn. It is frustrating now, but it will be OK in the long run. It’s a process, and we have to trust that they are learning.”
Eventually West Holmes got as close as 37-31 on a pair of Perone free throws. Then Wilcox hit her final triple of the evening to trim the Titans’ lead to 39-34, but Wirth continued to control the ball and the game, and her ongoing love affair with the charity stripe allowed Triway to maintain its edge and get the win.
Wirth was the MVP of the night, scoring 20 points while making just two buckets. However, her acumen for getting to the charity stripe allowed her to score big, and her unselfish play led to scores for teammates.
“When they came out and decided to face guard her, when she did get the ball, she didn’t force it,” Kiper said of Wirth. “She found the open person, and when she found the opportunity to get to the free throw line, she did. She shot 22 free throws, and for a 5-foot-6 guard, that says a lot about her heart and her determination. She made great decisions with the ball.”
Triway ended the night with just 10 made action shots including a pair of 3-pointers, but the damage was done at the free throw stripe, where the Titans poured in 25-of-34 free throws on the night. Aside from Wirth’s 20 points, Lang added 12 and Carmichael netted eight.
Leading the Lady Knights was Wilcox, who tossed in a career-high 17 points. Brown, who went down with an ankle injury in the second half, scored five while Perone and Woods each chipped in with four apiece. Wilcox added a team-high five rebounds.
For West Holmes the struggle to find consistency, especially on the offensive end of the floor, could be a struggle as the youngsters try to figure things out at the varsity level.
“We need some leaders, not scoring leaders, but leaders who will take charge in other ways,” Snyder said. “We are not going to have one kid who scores 20 points a night, but we have to learn to play as a unit. We can’t have one or two kids playing well. We need five or six.”
Snyder went on to note that the team needs to learn how to move better without the ball, and they are still in learning mode. She said there is no reason to panic as her team learns how to play on the fly and make adjustments as teams present different challenges.
As for Wilcox, Snyder said she was the one player who was able to find success on the offensive end.
“She shot it really well tonight,” Snyder said of Wilcox. “She is capable, and it is nice to have that outside scoring threat.”