With one victory in four games and fresh off a blowout loss against Greeneview, it wasn’t exactly now or never for the West Liberty-Salem girls basketball team. But Tigers coach Dennis McIntosh sure was glad to see his team play its best game of the season Thursday night.
The Tigers opened a 14-point lead through three quarters and held off Southeastern for a 51-44 Ohio Heritage Conference victory.
“We’re just trying to get better, do our best in the league and compete every game,” McIntosh said. “Tonight was a step in the right direction. It was by far our best performance of the season.”
The Tigers (2-3, 1-1) have three returning starters from last year’s 14-8 team, but their best inside players graduated. McIntosh is playing a four-guard lineup led by seniors Melany Ward, Maria Daulton and Alandara Cox. Ward scored a game-high 19 points, made 4-of-8 3-point shots and added four assists.
“She really kept herself under control,” McIntosh said. “She made some threes, but she also took it to the hole. And even when they cut her off she dished off for some assists. Team-wise we did a better job of moving the ball, and when we got open looks we knocked down some shots.”
McIntosh was also pleased with his team’s defense that was tasked with trying to hold down Southeastern sisters Taylor and Lexi Perry, who scored 12 and 13 points, respectively.
“The defense was probably the biggest thing, and the defensive rebounding was much improved,” McIntosh said.
The Tigers were coasting in the fourth quarter when the Trojans (3-2, 1-1) made a run. Taylor Perry made a 3-pointer with about 1:30 to play, and Lexi Perry made a 3-pointer with a minute to play to cut the Tigers’ lead to six. But the Tigers responded with a free throw and kept the Trojans from scoring again.
“We didn’t play particularly well and made a lot of mistakes,” Trojans coach Jim Lightle said. “We’re young and we looked like it tonight.”