The formula for the West Forsyth girls basketball team the past three seasons has been relatively simple: get the ball to Jenna Staiti.
And understandably. Staiti has been a rare talent with the Lady Wolverines – the 6-foot-5 center is a two-time Region 6-AAAAAA Player of the Year, two-time all-state selection, a McDonald’s All-American nominee and on and on. Her combination of size and touch has made her a dominating presence on offense and defense. With her as its anchor, West has had historic success, breaking school records for wins in a single season each of the past two seasons and making consecutive trips to the state playoffs.
But, this season, the formula has shifted. Yes, Staiti is still producing, averaging 25 points, though it’s down from last season when she averaged 29 points and was named the Forsyth County News’ Girls Player of the Year. Instead, West has found more reliable compliments to Staiti, taking pressure off the state’s No. 1 recruit and turning the No. 10-ranked Lady Wolverines (12-3, 10-0 Region 6-AAAAAA) into a more balanced team.
“I think we’re a better team right now than we ever have been,” West head coach David May said. “We’ve been so reliant on Jenna and everything she’s doing. Now, I think we’re able to take advantage of what some defenses are doing to her and getting some other kids some shots. I really, really like that.”
Jane Ortlip and Kalie Schlegel have provided the biggest help for Staiti.
Ortlip, a senior small forward-type, has led the team in scoring twice. She hit a school-record seven three-pointers for 21 points in a 53-23 victory against Johns Creek (Staiti had 18). Then she had a team-high 11 points in a 36-24 win against Chattahoochee (Staiti had 10).
Schlegel perhaps provides the biggest relief for Staiti. As a power forward, the junior has done enough scoring inside to force defenses to relax some on Staiti. She scored 11 points in a win against Alpharetta, and 10 points against Habersham Central, Johns Creek and Centennial.
“I think [Kalie] really takes a lot off everybody pounding Jenna inside,” West senior guard Hayla Seitz said.
But West’s offense has also received production from Seitz, Carsen Parker, Brooke Pirkle and Madison Bowers. Six different players have scored in double figures for the Lady Wolverines this season.
“Those kids have stepped it up and been able to score a little bit more and take advantage of what defenses are doing against us,” May said.
They’ve stepped it up even more, May said, after two lopsided losses in the She Got Game Classic in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. West first lost 61-34 to Oakland, then 73-46 against Riverdale, the No. 15-ranked team in the country, according to MaxPreps.
“Anytime you’re playing that competition, you get everything exposed,” May said. “We just didn’t perform well.”
“I think over the last few weeks we’ve really made a huge jump from where we were,” Ortlip said. “I think we’re where we need to be. We weren’t really working as hard as we could, but after a couple losses we really started getting after it.”
West will find out how far it’s come this weekend.
First, the Lady Wolverines will face North Forsyth (10-7, 7-4) on Friday for the third time this season. West has won both times, a 49-38 victory in the Raider Classic on Nov. 24 and a 55-54 win Dec. 4 in a region game.
“We know North is going to bring it,” May said. “North always brings it.”
If West defeats North, it would set up a marquee, top-10 showdown Monday against No. 6-ranked South Forsyth (13-4, 10-0) between two teams undefeated in the region.
“We know what they’re going to do,” May said. “They have four guards who can pressure you, and they’re just going to get in transition like crazy.”