Clay Battelle, Local Sports, Sports

Raylee Hennen, defense lead Clay-Battelle past Valley Wetzel

BLACKSVILLE — The Clay-Battelle girls’ basketball team would freely admit that they have had their challenges on the offensive side of the court at times this season, so it’s usually to their advantage to keep the game in the 40s or less.

And the best way to do that is to take care of the ball, play gritty team defense, and limit second shots on the defensive glass. Now, while the first quarter Monday night hosting Valley Wetzel definitely did not follow the script, the Cee-Bees really found their team game in the second half, especially forward Raylee Hennen, as they overcame a three-point halftime deficit to pull away late for a tough 36-31 victory.

Both teams had trouble generating points early, until Valley Wetzel guard Winter Higgins, who would lead her team with 14 points, flashed some quick hands and feet to generate several turnovers and easy transition points in the second quarter to help forge a 19-16 Lumberjills (8-8) advantage at the break.

The Cee-Bees (6-8) needed to find a way to minimize Higgins’ disruptiveness, and coach David Joyce decided to go with what they know.

“They were working a half-court trap, basically,” he explained, “se we just ran our full court press break, but at half court. We got the ball over the top and into the corners, and that allowed us to get real good looks in the paint and kept them from turning us over. And the girls executed very well.”

C-B slowly rolled out an 8-0 start to the third quarter while completely shutting down Valley for the first five minutes of the second half, but couldn’t extend the lead despite several excellent chances down low.

Then a pair of three-balls from Higgins and Harli Rush suddenly propelled the Lumberjills right back in the game. In the final quarter, Valley actually took a 29-28 lead with 3:30 left, but that’s when Hennen — who’d been extremely active on both ends of the court — took over.

She took a beautiful little feed from center Kenley Statler for a lay-in and the lead, then stole the ball, earned a trip to the line and buried both, then repeated that Statler connection at the rim again to build the lead to 34-29 with a minute left. Finally, she pulled down a huge defensive rebound, and fed guard Laikyn Dalton, who dribbled off all but four seconds of the clock, then buried both ends of a one-and-one to ice the victory.

Asking Hennen about her team-high 14 points didn’t inspire all that much enthusiasm – “My offense kind of comes and goes, like our team’s,” she said — but she really lit up when the subject turned to the Cee-Bees defense.

“I love defense. That’s the best part of my game, and our team plays best when we fight hard and play physically strong,” she said. “We talk a lot, make sure we’re on the same page, and we encourage each other. We rebounded really well, and turned up the intensity when we needed it the most. This was a nice way to start the week for us for sure.”

Clay-Battelle is on the road for their next two games (Tygarts Valley on Wednesday and Wood County Christian on Saturday) before returning home next Monday for their opening round game in the OVAC Tournament.

Trinity 67, Caldwell (Ohio) 40

Trinity’s duo of Jenna Barnett and Sucora Brown were enough to get the job done against Caldwell.

Barnett scored 30 and Brown added 27 for the Warriors, who outscored Caldwell by 20 points in the second half to pull away.

“We really played hard in our zone defense tonight,” Trinity head coach Mike Baldy said.