SUMTER — The Richard Winn girls’ basketball team secured their spot in the SCISA AA state semi-finals by eliminating Palmetto Christian on Monday night by a score of 57-44.
The Lady Eagles never trailed in the contest and jumped out to a 16-5 lead in the first quarter. Richard Winn head coach Jason Haltiwanger said his team did a good job early by executing their game plan.
Defensively, Richard Winn was tasked with slowing down Palmetto Christian’s Corey Caulder, who was averaging nearly 30 points per game.
Haltiwanger stated that Caulder is possibly the best player they’ve seen all season.
“You have got to give that girl (Caulder) credit because we threw a lot at her,” he noted. “For us to throw what we threw at her defensively and still give up a 30-point effort, she is a special player.”
Caulder showed off her range and handling skills on the way to a game-high 31 points. At one point, Richard Winn was on the high end of a 12-2 foul count, forcing a less aggressive defensive style.
“We got into foul trouble and we began thinking instead of being aggressive,” Haltiwanger said. “And that was when she (Caulder) got loose and did some damage to us.”
Despite Caulder’s efforts, the Lady Eagles had an answer offensively every time she netted a basket.
“It was tough,” Haltiwanger noted. “But it was good that we’re deep enough to deal with foul trouble.”
Richard Winn’s Carson Justice played half of the game because of foul trouble, but still scored a team-high 22 points.
Jaycie Johnson cracked double digits as well with a 17-point effort.
Jessie Stidham, Emily Brigman and Alyssa Atkerson wrapped up Richard Winn’s scoring with seven, six and five points respectively.
Following the win, Richard Winn faced Beaufort Academy on Thursday for a chance to compete in the state championship game. Scores were unavailable at press time.
Haltiwanger told The Herald Independent that he could see individual players’ confidence growing heading into Thursday’s contest.
“Certain individuals are playing as good as I’ve ever seen them play,” he stated.
Haltiwanger credited Johnson as one of those players stepping up her game.
“Jaycie (Johnson) absolutely wants this championship and she is showing that offensively,” he noted. “But she is also impacting the game defensively by blocking shots and grabbing rebounds.”
Beaufort Academy (15-7, 7-1) averages 44 points per game and shoots 31-percent from the floor. Beaufort punched their ticket to the state semi-final round with a 45-36 victory over Holly Hill on Monday.
Holly Hill only shot 26 percent from the field and struggled at the free throw line, going 10 of 31.
Prior to Thursday’s game against Beaufort, Haltiwanger singled out Miranda Westlake as a key cog to Beaufort’s success.
“She is a pure athlete who is very fast, strong and quick,” he explained. “She is phenomenal and will cause us some problems defensively.”
Westlake averages 24 points per game and four steals per outing. She has signed to play soccer at the University of Clemson.
Haltiwanger believes a slightly different defensive approach will help his team guard another prolific scorer.
“Before (against Palmetto Christian) we were thinking instead of reacting,” he said. “So we’re going to do what we do normally to improve reaction time and take the thinking away from it.”
Defensively, Haltiwanger said he intends to use two girls to guard Westlake at all times and play a triangle zone inside the arch.
“I want us to just go in doing what we do so we’re not thinking and we’re just reacting,” he stated. “From there we can make adjustments if she (Westlake) hurts us.”
Check www.heraldindependent.com for a game story following Thursday’s contest. With a win, Richard Winn will play in the state championship on March 1.