The Wright City High School Wildcats girls basketball team lost a game February 5 to North Callaway in MSHSAA action.
The Wright City girls struggled to keep up with North Callaway most of the night on Feb. 5.
The Lady Wildcats lost 71-27 at their Eastern Missouri Conference foe after being held to only five points in the second half and allowing the Ladybirds to tally 50 rebounds.
There have been several times this season Wright City (6-13, 0-5 EMO) hasn’t reached 30 points, but head coach Doug Smith saw some bright spots in the loss. After North Callaway (16-7, 6-2 EMO) shot ahead to a 28-10 lead after the first quarter, thanks to Riley Blevins pouring in 16 points to officially record her 1,000 career point, Wright City matched the Ladybirds’ total in the second quarter of 12 points.
“That second quarter, we came out in a little triangle and 2 and did some different things defensively against him,” Smith said. “We got them out of their sync that they were in. We executed that pretty well. They obviously came out of halftime and adjusted to it.”
Smith said that was the second game this season his team has run that defense, due to him wanting to broaden Wright City’s defensive horizons but also to deter reigning all-conference players Blevins — who finished with a game-high 28 points — and Natalie Shryock. That forced other North Callaway girls to step up, and they did.
In particular, Lakyn Hartley barreled into the paint several times to score 13 of her 18 points, which went with her eight rebounds. She was one of three Ladybirds to have at least eight boards as Blevins finished with nine and Abrielle Burgher had 10.
“It’s not just those two (Blevins and Shryock),” Smith said. “They are a good team, and they’re fun to watch. Hopefully, they have a good season.”
Wright City was actually in danger of being shut out in the third quarter if not for Bailey Love putting in a layup at the end of a fastbreak to beat the buzzer. The Lady Wildcats junior varsity defeated North Callaway in the previous game 44-39, coming back from a double-digit deficit when multiple Ladybirds fouled out.
Olivia Wilson was one of those players that put in some minutes for junior varsity and then finished with seven points and four rebounds in the varsity game. Smith said she wasn’t the only JV girl on the floor in the second half that matched up with North Callaway’s starting five.
“Part of that obviously is I would play JV girls and play in some other girls,” Smith said. “I got everybody in the game, and I wasn’t just rolling with my first crew. A little bit of it is that, and they adjusted to us a little bit, and did some things defensively to make us struggle.”
Shiriah McRoberts had a notable first half for Wright as the sophomore finished with a team-high nine points. She was the main Lady Wildcat handling the ball, finding some open lanes to the rim but couldn’t put the ball in the net when North Callaway forced her out to the perimeter. Still, Smith said she is definitely one of those “building blocks” he is excited about along with the freshmen Wilson and Ada Ferrell, who had four points and five rebounds.
“She is kind of our catalyst,” Smith said. “They’ve got their best defender guarding her most of the game. There is a reason for that. She is a solid player and the key to a lot of what we try to do. I can’t wait to see what she becomes.”
There are quite a bit of players Smith sees potential in, but it’s going to take more games for them to grow. While there is a good chance of encountering more nights like at North Callaway, any experience helps young players learn.
“I just think giving kids minutes is important,” Smith said. “We’ve got too many girls who haven’t played enough basketball to really just be able to come out and compete, play and understand the game and situations. I certainly thought that was the case today.”