You could hardly call 5-2 struggling. But that’s where Wilmington was seven games in to the 2017-18 girls basketball season.
Fresh off losses to SBAAC National Division leader Williamsburg and a highly-rated Wayne team, the Lady Hurricane found itself 2-2 in its last four games. Not bad, mind you, but with the expectations coming in to the season and a 3-0 start, it’s not where they wanted to be.
As Wilmington prepares for its Division I sectional tournament opener 7 p.m. Saturday at Sycamore High School against Talawanda, that 5-2 start seems like a distant memory. WHS is now 19-2.
”I never doubted our team because those were two tough losses to two good teams, making us work even harder,” said Suzannah Johns, whose role on the team includes pushing her teammates in practices and games. “The hard work paid off because we came back and beat Williamsburg the second time around.”
Said WHS head coach Zach Williams, “I was never worried. We have a great group of girls here at Wilmington. We knew the Wayne game was going to be tough; they are a very good team. We did not come out and play as good as we could have against them as a team.”
That was in part, Williams believes, because the Lady Hurricane where still searching for its identity. Beyond Mya Jackson as the top scorer on the team, there were questions to be answered.
“I think we still had some uncertainty in who we were at the time we played them (Wayne),” said Williams. “As far as the Williamsburg loss, that one was hard to explain. We were playing without Katlyn (Jamiel) who is a mood setter for us and a great defender so that hurt us. We did not shoot well and just seemed unfocused. Williamsburg is a very good team and plays with a ton of swagger and belief in themselves and on that night they were better then us.”
Wilmington has five seniors on its roster – Faith Sanderson, Katlyn Jamiel, Heather Fryman, Leah Frisco and Suzannah Johns. The group has all the abilities a coach could want – offense, defense, leadership, intangibles.
And they weren’t going to let a season go south after just seven games.
“I knew we were a tough team,” said Fryman, the consummate role player. “Those two losses don’t define us.”
Sanderson, though she has played just seven games because of injury, was equally grounded in her beliefs about this team.
“Nothing but greatness,” Sanderson said of her expectations. “Our losses … did not put a dent in my confidence or worry me at all. I knew we would take those losses and learn from there. And we did.”
The rest of the teams in the area learned as well – this was a pretty darn good basketball team despite a pair of defeats.
And from then on the wins starting rolling in. Winton Woods, Kings, Goshen, Chillicothe and Batavia went down with little trouble. Carroll was next and the Lady Patriots put up a fight before falling 46-42.
“I knew as long as we started and continued to play basketball the way we know how, the season was going to be special no matter what our record was,” said Frisco, a post player who offers many of the skills of a guard.
Clinton-Massie, Talawanda, Western Brown, New Richmond, Goshen, East Clinton and Batavia came and went and WHS was sitting at 18-2, champions of a league for the first time since 2012 and just the second time in school history.
But there was one big game remaining on the regular season schedule.
A rematch with unbeaten Williamsburg.
“We’ve grown a lot since (the first meeting),” said Jamiel, the defensive spark plug on the WHS girls roster.
That growth resulted in a stunning result, stunning maybe to everyone but the Lady Hurricane.
“We sort of overlooked them (the first game) due to playing them in the summer and beating them,” said Sanderson.
Said Fryman, “We’re going to be ready for them. We are the better team.”
The results back that statement.
Wilmington 71, Williamsburg 34.
But all that is behind them now. Every team starts over as the sectional tournament begins. 19-2 means nothing. Any game now can be the last.
“We have some very good players on this team, some great athletes,” said Williams. “Mya Jackson is one of the best players in this part of Ohio and then you add the speed of Jasmine (Jamiel), toughness of Katlyn, rebounding and defense of Leah, solid game play from Sami (McCord), defensive pressure from Suzannah, shooting and all-around play of Bailey (Zerby), and the reliability of Heather, you have the makings of a pretty good team. As long as they play together and for each other, they will be successful and hopefully put on a great show and possibly a run in this tournament.”
Reach Mark Huber at 937-556-5765, via email [email protected] or on Twitter @wnjsports