WINNSBORO — A short-handed Richard Winn Academy Eagles girls squad came up with a dominating victory against Spartanburg Day Academy on Tuesday, overcoming a three-minute first half stretch where they played four against five.
The mismatch happened because Cassidy Branham was injured, but during that key stretch the girls’ resolve stiffened and they did not allow a single point in the paint. Using a 2-2 defense designed on the fly and based upon a defensive scramble drill from practice, Coach Jason Haltiwanger’s squad weathered the storm to win the region game 45-12.
All 10 players made the trip for RWA but four were ineligible as they served one-game suspensions related to a violation of team rules. The other player who dressed but did not play has been injured most of the season.
The four suspended girls also did extra running and faced discipline per school policy. Their teammates upheld the standard of excellence Haltiwanger has set for his program, the reigning SCISA AA state champions.
The iron five for Haltiwanger were Jaycie Johnson, Jessie Stidham, Anna Cooke, Bailey Taylor and Cassidy Branham. Taylor played out of position at the point but he said she handled the game well. Haltiwanger used timeouts strategically and used the team’s stall game to slow the action when the girls needed a breather.
That said, he continued to press and run the RWA up tempo style of play for much of the game.
“Basically we fed the ball into the post to Jaycie and Jessie and it worked out for us,” Haltiwanger said. “I have never coached 4 against 5 before, but we do a drill like that where they guard to ball handle the next biggest threat.”
Johnson led the Eagles with 16 points. Stidham added 13 and Taylor had seven.
As for the violation of team rules, Haltiwanger said he expects his players to approach every situation in life and be a champion, a winner, whether that be in class, socially or on the court.
“Our players’ focus needs move onto the next life experience and handling themselves the right way. Moving forward we need everyone to gel and come together,” Haltiwanger said. “We need chemistry and proper focus and leadership to excel. If not (for defending state champions), we really are just an average team.”
He praised the grit of his iron five who played the game without any substitutes and who held the opposition to just 12 points.
In the second game at Greenwood Christian, the road was kind to a Richard Winn boys squad in the midst of an up and down season. In a game that RWA really needed to win to bolster its playoff hopes, the boys team got a convincing 66-35 victory.
RWA took an early lead as shooting that Coach Joe Pitt said had been tepid this season suddenly got hot. Patrick Pope hit two three-pointers and Cameron Cooper added five three-pointers, all in the first quarter of play. Pope led the team with 24 points. Cameron Cooper added 17 and Joseph Goldin had eight.
Since the Eagles won, that places more importance on tonight’s contest, because Coach Pitt said if the boys could win both games this week they would have the inside track to securing third place in the region and an automatic playoff spot.
All four Eagle teams play Spartanburg Day School at home tonight. The middle school girls tip off at 4 p.m. with other games to follow.