The harassment started on West Forsyth girls basketball’s first possession. Lady Wolverines sophomore Jenna Staiti moved into the low post, and two Lambert post defenders covered her, bumped her, leaned into her, anything to disrupt her and deny her the basketball.
It has been the one constant defensive ploy from opponents through West’s perfect start to the season and one that Lambert likewise tried to use. But the 6-foot-4 center has played through it with remarkable efficiency and did again in a 46-41 victory Tuesday for a Region 6-AAAAAA victory on the road.
Staiti led all scorers with 27 points, including 20 during the first half. Abby Quincy added nine points for West, while Connor Parker had six.
“We just always want [Jenna] to be aggressive, and I thought she did a really good job tonight, probably her best game of the season just in terms of being aggressive and asserting herself offensively,” West coach David May said. “That’s what she sees every game.”
“I’m kind of used to it,” Staiti said, “but this year I’m learning how to get through it and score.”
The Lady Wolverines (8-0, 3-0) led 40-26 after the third quarter and looked in control until May gave his starters some rest and Lambert (3-3, 0-3) turned up the defensive intensity in the fourth quarter.
The Lady Longhorns’ full court defense flustered West into a flurry of turnovers. Ashley Johnson and Kara Kidwell got consecutive steals and breakaway lay-ups, Kelsey Morkem made five straight free throws and Ellie Hammer nailed a 3-pointer.
Suddenly, West’s comfortable lead was gone.
“We have to get better execution from all our kids,” May said. “We gave some kids some opportunities and they have to execute better. That’s what it boils down to down the stretch.”
May put his starters back in with 22.5 seconds left, including Staiti. She made her only basket of the fourth quarter, a slight cushion before the clock ran out on Lambert’s comeback.
Corie Baker led the Lady Longhorns with 11 points, while Morkem and Johnson added eight points each.
“We’ve got to learn not to get so far behind,” Lambert coach Tony Watkins said. “We’ve got to do something different. That’s three games in a row we’ve dug ourselves a hole.”
Staiti almost single handedly dug the hole for Lambert with her diverse offensive game. Several times she stepped outside and made 15-18 foot jump shots. When the double teams were overwhelming, she found open teammates for lay-ups.
That’s been the formula for West this season, one in which the Lady Wolverines have already matched their win total from a season ago.
“I think our confidence is up,” Staiti said. “We’re learning how to play as a team instead of one person. So we’re all contributing in practice. In games, it’s like everyone’s there. It’s really working out.”