By most projections, West Side's Lady Eagles were not supposed to be alive in the regional tournament, not with six sophomores and two freshmen receiving the majority of the playing time for a team that finished sixth in conference.
The youngest team in the Greers Ferry Lake area nearly took another step, battling regional champion Wonderview down to the wire, before falling 46-40 on Friday in the first round of the 1A, Region 3 Tournament in Greers Ferry.
“I am super proud for the season these girls had,” said West Side Coach Shane Davis. “We said we wanted to be playing good in the non-conference season, better in the conference season and our best in the postseason.
“And because the girls bought into playing hard and playing defense every night they achieved that no doubt,” emphasized Davis. “I am looking forward to the next couple of years with the bulk of our team, [including] five sophomores and a lot of freshmen back. I think the foundation has been laid for us and now we need to keep working in the off-season to get better,” Davis added.
Wonderview, which improved to 28-7 after beating No. 1 ranked Mount Vernon-Enola in the semifinals and Sacred Heart in the championship game, jumped out to a 15-5 lead after one quarter of play as Abbey Sensabaugh, Bailey Zimmerman and Ali Harris each sank a three-pointer, while versatile forward Laken Ward added four points.
Trailing 23-13 late in the second quarter, West Side (14-21) closed the first half with a 5-0 spurt, beginning when point guard Abby Turney swiped a steal and cruised in for a layup.
Following a free throw by forward Alexis Barnes, center Gracie Waters came up with a steal and finished on the offensive end with a follow shot at the horn, trimming the Lady Eagles' deficit to 23-28 at halftime.
West Side quickly tied the game early in the third quarter as Waters scored deep in the paint and Turney drilled a three-pointer from left elbow off a crosscourt assist from guard Whitney England.
The Lady Daredevils reclaimed the lead with three consecutive free throws, including two from Zimmerman, but the Lady Eagles stayed close as Waters scored from right block over two defenders.
With under two minutes left in the third quarter, West Side pulled within a bucket when forward Ashley Gentry ripped a three-pointer from right wing off an assist from Turney.
After Ward responded with a bucket in the paint for the Lady Daredevils, Gentry sank a free throw, leaving Wonderview with a 36-33 heading into the final eight minutes of play.
Wonderview stretched its lead to eight early in the fourth quarter on five straight points from Harris, including a three-pointer on the Lady Daredevils' opening possession.
Page 2 of 2 - West Side regrouped and scored seven unanswered over the next three minutes, starting when forward Alexis Barnes dropped a runner in the lane.
Turney then poured in five straight, including a steal and layup, plus a three-pointer from right elbow, slicing the Lady Eagles' deficit to one at 41-40.
In the final 2:07, Zimmerman sank 4 of 5 free throws and the Lady Daredevils held West Side to only one basket down the stretch, escaping with a 46-40 win.
Zimmerman and Ward each scored 14 points to lead Wonderview, while Harris added nine. Turney pumped in a game-high 20 points for West Side ¬ five in each quarter, Waters followed with 10 points and eight rebounds, while forward Melissa Hendrickson grabbed seven rebounds.
West Side finished 16 of 39 from the field, including 6 of 18 from beyond the arc. Wonderview, which collected six more offensive rebounds (13) than West Side, sank 12 of 17 free throws, while the Lady Eagles hit 2 of 7 shots from the charity stripe.