Twenty-one seconds into the third quarter, West Forsyth had already made two plays – a backdoor lay-up and a forced turnover – to force Lambert coach Tony Watkins to use a timeout. He used another one 1:39 later, then another with 3:48 left.
Watkins called four timeouts in all in the third quarter, none with the desired result. The Lady Wolverines were set in cruise control and couldn’t be stopped in the second half of a 55-42 victory Tuesday in a Region 6-AAAAAA game at home.
Half of West sophomore center Jenna Staiti’s game-high 26 points came in that decisive third quarter. So did half of freshman guard Abby Quincy’s four 3-pointers. The decisive stretch saw West go on a 19-3 run to turn a 25-24 halftime lead into 44-27.
“At halftime, we told each other that we had to get it going,” Quincy said. “It was just a great team effort. We were just ready to go.”
“I thought it was probably our best effort in a while,” West coach David May said. “Just the intensity. You know we weren’t really good defensively in the first half, but the second half we were a lot better. We tightened some things up. Offensively we had some kids being aggressive, which is where we kind of had been lacking the past weeks.
“Them being aggressive, just going out and playing and having fun was really the difference.”
Nights like this were rare over the past several weeks. After starting the season 8-0, matching the team’s win total from last season, West went 4-7 over its next 11 games, including losing four of its past six. Part of the decline was an ankle injury to Staiti, but part had been that West’s confidence hit a wall. Two straight losses to Alpharetta and Centennial didn’t help.
So May shook things up Tuesday. The Lady Wolverines’ regular starters of Conner Parker, Maddie O’Connor, Jasmine Rodriguez, Staiti and Quincy began the game on the bench. Hayla Seitz, Natalie Bascom, Hannah Crowe, Casey Gazza and Jane Ortlip started in their place.
“You come off the bench and I think sometimes those kids can watch a bit and see what’s going on,” May said. “They then come in, you’ve got a fresh group coming in at you and just playing hard.”
They entered with 4:45 left in the first quarter but didn’t do real damage until that pivotal third quarter. O’Connor got it started with a back-door lay-up. Staiti put back her own miss to give West its first double-digit lead at 36-26, and it got worse from there.
Rodriguez got a second chance lay-up to make it 52-33 in the fourth quarter. Staiti converted a three-point play to give West its largest lead of the game at 55-34 with 3:47 left.
May didn’t wait much longer to bring his starters back to the bench for the rest of the night.
“We’re starting to play better as a team,” Quincy said. “We had a little slump, but we’re getting better.”
Corrie Baker had 11 points to lead Lambert, who was coming off an emotional 56-52 win Saturday at McIntosh to give Watkins his 600th career victory.
“How many miss rebounds did we have?” Lambert coach Tony Watkins said. “We’ve got to play 32 minutes. We’re not good enough to play just one half. I thought in the first half we did a good job of doing the game plan. It’s a process.”