On a night when not many shots were falling, Waverly sophomore point guard Zoiee Smith was determined to keep driving.

Smith provided 22 of Waverly’s 40 points, including three final free throws that helped the Lady Tigers preserve a 40-37 varsity basketball win over the visiting Northwest Lady Mohawks Thursday night. Northwest nearly put together a fourth-quarter comeback and had the opportunity to force overtime, but the Lady Mohawks couldn’t get their final three-point attempts to fall.

“There wasn’t much pretty for us in that ball game. We had a hard time running any of our sets. We really had a hard time getting going for whatever reason,” said Waverly coach John Bonifield. “Northwest matches up well with us. They are an athletic group with tall players. They guard well, so it is a tough matchup every time we play them. They made us work.”

After Waverly senior Hailey Robinson opened the scoring in the game with a three-pointer, the two teams began trading buckets. Ultimately, Smith handled the rest of the scoring for the Lady Tigers in that quarter, capping her third successful drive with a floater midway through the quarter to make the lead 9-6. fter Paige Carter blocked a shot for the Lady Tigers, Smith added another bucket before finishing the quarter on the foul line. She had scored nine points points in the opening quarter, helping Waverly build a 12-10 advantage.

Scoring was at a premium in the second and third quarters as the two teams battled each other defensively. The Lady Mohawks scored on back-to-back baskets in the opening minute of the second quarter to take a brief lead, before Waverly senior Kami Knight answered to tie the game at 14-14. The score was locked there for nearly three minutes. Knight broke the deadlock by scoring again after a Northwest turnover. Smith had the next basket, increasing Waverly’s lead to 18-14. In the final 3:30, Northwest’s Haidyn Wamsley split a pair of free throws to account for her team’s only points outside of the two baskets scored in the opening minute. Smith connected on the final basket of the half for the Lady Tigers, who led 20-15 at the break.

Starting the third quarter, the two teams continued to battle, as neither could get a shot off against the other for almost two minutes. Even when they did start shooting, shots didn’t fall until Smith finally broke the drought with a drive, hitting a long-banked lay-in at 3:57. That move sparked the Lady Mohawks to answer as Ava Jenkins provided the first bucket, generating a 6-2 run to get Northwest within three, 24-21.

As Waverly fought to take the momentum back, Smith fired the ball inside to Carli Knight, who maneuvered around for a close-range bank shot while drawing a foul. She swished the ensuing freebie to increase the advantage to six again. After a Northwest turnover led to a fast break for opportunity for Kami Knight, she hit a final free throw to end the quarter, giving Waverly a seven-point cushion, 28-21.

Northwest cut that lead right back down to three to open the fourth quarter, connecting on back-to-back shots, 28-25. Smith looked to drive and then kicked the ball back out to Robinson for an open three, stretching the lead to six, 31-25. The Lady Mohawks made another 6-2 run, trimming the margin down to two, 33-31.

A Waverly turnover gave the Lady Mohawks the opportunity to tie, but Paige Carter provided a deflection on a putback attempt by Keirah Potts. Then Waverly worked the ball around, allowing Carter to use a pass from Smith to score on an open look in the lane. A Waverly steal led to another basket, increasing the lead to six again with 1:54 to play. The Lady Tigers ended up needing all of those points.

Wamsley and Potts countered with back-to-back buckets to get the Lady Mohawks within two again, 37-35. They quickly fouled Smith, putting her on the line with 44.9 to play. Smith’s first shot swished through the net, but the second rimmed off. Potts collected the rebound and scored, getting NHS within one, 38-37. Smith was fouled again, going to the line with 27.5 to go. She swished both of her shots. Lady Mohawk Valerie Eury tried to tie the game with a three-pointer, but it bounced off, allowing Robinson to get the rebound for the Lady Tigers. That led to another foul shooting opportunity for Smith and used more clock. Smith’s free throw attempt bounced off, but the Lady Mohawks couldn’t respond with a tying shot, giving the Lady Tigers the 40-37 win.

“We ran about every play we had in the book. Our execution just wasn’t there. Again, give credit to Northwest. It was some of our own doing as well,” said Bonifield. “For some reason, we weren’t focused. Zoiee was. Thank goodness for Zoiee. It seems like we can always count on Zoiee to pick us up when things aren’t going the way we wanted them to go. We needed her to do that and she had a good game for us.”

Smith finished with a game-high 22 points, adding four rebounds, three assists and three steals.

“It was hard for Zoiee to get assists, but that opened the driving lane for her,” said Bonifield. “She did a good job getting to the glass. A lot of teams don’t allow her to do that. She was able to get to the glass and finish around the basket.”

Carter was the leading rebounder for the Lady Tigers, securing 10 boards to go along with four points, two assists and three steals. For Northwest, Wamsley led with 13 points.

“Northwest plays to their strengths,” said Bonifield. “That makes them tough to beat. They made us earn everything.”

With the win, Waverly improved to 8-5 overall and 4-5 in Southern Ohio Conference Division II. The Lady Tigers are scheduled to play Jackson at home in a non-league contest on Monday evening.

NHS - 10 5 6 16 - 37

WHS - 12 8 9 12 - 40

NORTHWEST (37) — Val Eury 3 0 0-2 6, Skylar Patty 0 0 0-0 0, Haidyn Wamsley 6 0 1-3 13, Sydnie Jenkins 1 0 0-0 2, Keirah Potts 3 0 0-0 6, Ava Jenkins 3 0 0-0 6, Kloe Montgomery 1 0 0-0 2, TOTALS 18 1-5 37.

WAVERLY (40) — Kami Knight 2 0 1-2 5, Carli Knight 1 0 1-1 3, Maddy Collett 0 0 0-0 0, Michaela Rhoads 0 0 0-0 0, Lydia Brown 0 0 0-0 0, Delaney Tackett 0 0 0-0 0, Zoiee Smith 9 0 4-7 22, Hailey Robinson 0 2 0-0 6, Sarah Thompson 0 0 0-0 0, Paige Carter 2 0 0-0 4, TOTALS 16 0 6-10 40.

Email at jbillings@newswatchman.com; follow on Twitter @ Julie_Billings

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