North Forsyth girls coach Eric Herrick said a few weeks ago that West’s Jenna Staiti was the most valuable player in the state of Georgia because she could impact a game in so many ways.
Staiti’s performance on Monday night — 28 points, 16 rebounds, three blocks and countless forays into the paint halted because of her mere presence — was yet further evidence that Herrick might be right. Abby Quincy added 15 for West as the Lady Wolverines beat Maryville (Tenn.), 55-42, to earn a spot in the championship game of the Wolverine Winter Classic against Sequoyah at 7 p.m. Tuesday.
“Jenna played really well on both ends,” West coach David May said. “She was a presence inside, she chased down rebounds, but our other girls did a really nice job of stepping up, knocking down shots and attacking and getting the ball to Jenna.”
West’s junior center scored 10 of her 28 in a third quarter that saw the Lady Wolverines finally pull away from Maryville, which entered with a 9-1 record and two wins over teams ranked in the top-20 in Tennessee.
The most telling stretch of all came in the waning minutes of that third quarter, after the Lady Rebels had cut the West lead to four. Carsen Parker answered with a layup, Staiti scored the next four and Quincy knocked down two free throws. Staiti was fouled with 1.9 seconds left in the frame and hit both from the charity stripe to give West the breathing room it lacked in the first half.
May credited the Lady Wolverines’ ball movement and patience offensively in the second half. Sure, Staiti can catch the ball pretty much anywhere, but it doesn’t mean it’s a good spot to score. Most of her touches in the third quarter came within five feet of the rim — by then, it’s game over.
“Teams overload on Jenna so much that if we can move the ball sideline-to-sideline, it forces defenses to rotate out and it frees her up a little bit,” he said.
Maryville enjoyed little success in the paint; shooting 4-for-18 from 3-point range and 10-for-21 from the free-throw line didn’t help.
“Maryville has girls that can shoot, but we have athletic girls, and when Jenna’s in the middle, they can be more aggressive [on defense],” May said. “They know if they get beat off the drive, Jenna is behind them. She’s hard to score over.”
It’ll get no easier for West on Tuesday night. Sequoyah led North by double-digits in the fourth quarter in late November but let that lead slip away.
West Forsyth girls 55, Maryville (Tenn.) 42
Maryville 10 11 10 11_42
West Forsyth 10 13 19 13_55
Maryville: Pepperman 13, Tillie 12, Coulter 8.
West Forsyth: Staiti 28, Quincy 15, Conner Parker 5, Rodriguez 4, Carsen Parker 2, Seitz 1.
2-point FG: Maryville 10-23, West 15-33.
3-point FG: Maryville 4-18, West 1-3.
Free throws: Maryville 10-21, West 18-24.
Rebounds: Maryville 20, West 29.
Turnovers: Maryville 17, West 19.