WEST LIBERTY – The WL-S girls basketball team is making a repeat trip to the Division III district final on Saturday, with a possibly even deeper run on the horizon.
That notion is something that seemed unlikely after losing All-Everything center Jamie Peterson to graduation a year ago.
But leave it to WL-S Coach Dennis McIntosh and the program to readjust and find something just as special.
“We felt after Jamie graduated that we still had a very strong group of girls, we just had to change the way we attacked the game,” McIntosh said. “We press man to man a lot more and our offense is set up to get a lot more outside shots. We have spent a lot of time from day one working on rebounding.”
The Tigers are small in stature, but mighty from long distance. Lily Yoder has been an absolute terror for opposing defenses – a sniper of elite company. Averaging 14.1 points per contest for a team that scores just a hair under 59 a game, Yoder will knock down anything even resembling an open jumper.
“As far as our shooting, we have spent a ton of time, starting last summer, working on our shooting,” McIntosh said. “We have to have the mindset that our feet, legs and hands are ready to shoot at all times.”
Yoder’s steady emergence as a top threat isn’t the only threat the WL-S squad poses. Each of the six other players – Mikalia McIntosh, Gabby Hollar, Taylor Lauck, Kelsey Day, Laine Godwin and Paige Shafer – average between 4.5 and 9.2 points per game.
And you never know who’s going to step up on either end of the floor.
While Yoder and McIntosh do most of the damage at the offensive end, Day and Godwin can bang home shots from anywhere and Hollar and Lauck harass opponents on defense – “Lauck down” defense, if you will – and slash to the basket at the other end.
Shafer is lanky enough to cause problems in the middle.
“Defense is a big part of our game. We want the game to be very fast-paced, causing turnovers resulting in easy baskets for us,” Coach McIntosh said. “But we also feel we can be very good in our half-court defense as long as we rebound.”
If anything, Peterson’s departure may be the ultimate case study in addition by subtraction. Each of the remaining Tigers had put in the work to develop, and it’s paying dividends.
West Liberty-Salem will face off with Badin on Saturday at 3 p.m. at Springfield High School.
Reach Justin Miller at 652-1331 (ext. 1776) or on Twitter @UDC_Miller.