Williamstown girls off to a 9-2 hot start

Photo by Ron Johnston Williamstown’s Bethany Arnold is fouled by Wirt County’s Emma Wyer during a Yellowjackets’ win earlier this season. Arnold has been a backbone to Williamstown’s hot start.

WILLIAMSTOWN– Tough, tenacious and team describes the Williamstown Yellowjackets girls basketball team to a perfect ‘T’. With a 62-51 win Tuesday over Ritchie County Tuesday, the Williamstown girls team is improved to 9-2 and entered the week is currently fourth in Class A Associated Press polls.

Losing players and beefing up the schedule, head coach Fred Sauro couldn’t imagine a better start to the season. “We are tickled to death right now to be 9-2,” said Sauro. “We play Marietta, Warren, Eastern and Gilmer upcoming. It’s tough, it’s a grind.

Loses have only come against ranked teams in No. 2 Parkersburg Catholic and No. 6 Wheeling Central.

The Yellowjackets lost three players from their summer team, but losing returning starting point guard Junior Keely Alsup, who according to Sauro is the teams best athlete, put a huge hole in plans for Sauro.

Instead of just one player stepping up, everyone from the starters to the bench is finding their role and coming together as a team.

“We always knew that we were going to be a good because of the depth we have, we share the ball, look for each other and have really come together,” senior Bethany Arnold said.

The turning point on the Yellowjackets’ season was coming away with the 56-44 win on the road against St Marys. Having a rough time shooting the ball, the Yellowjackets started playing with some grit and grind fighting for every loose ball or rebound.

“We turned a corner that game,” said Sauro. “The team started really nervous because of expectations, but they have grown into their roles and everyone is contributing,” Sauro said.

With a veteran core of juniors and seniors, the Yellowjackets are not short on experience. Senior Jenna Pridemore is the leading scorer with 12.8 points per game, Bethany Arnold, who had a double-double with 17 points and 16 rebounds Tuesday, throws up 9.9 points and 10 rebounds per contest.

Izzy Erb, who averages 3.9 steals a game, is the teams best defender according to Sauro. “She does our dirty work, she’s tall, rebounding more, she has definently stepped up,” Sauro said. Yellowjackets main rotation is Sophmore Nicole Reynolds, the leader in assists with 4.2, Erb, Pridemore and Arnold, but for the fifth spot it has been rotating between Juniors guards Taylor Newton and Kayli Sauro, both being good at passing in the post, Newton is more of a threat on the wing while Sauro is a better rebounder. Out of the two, Newton has started the most. Main contributors from the bench have been junior sixth-man guard Mara Rinehart, who is averaging 13.2 points per game shooting 47 percent from the field, senior center Breanna Lowe, junior forward Brittney Hooper, Newton or Sauro and emerging freshman guard Laykn Joy rounds out the Yellowjackets second unit.

Not looking at the state tournament, the Yellowjackets are just taking it day by day and only focusing on the regular season. “The team’s goal right now is making both the LKC Night of Champions and into the sectional tournament,” said Sauro. “To be able to do those things, we have to stay focused and that playing in the present moment.”

Keeping the team focused could mean cutting back on practice time compared to the start of the season or doing different drills to help prevent the team from burning out during the long season.

“Every team’s goal is the state tournament, but we know that we have to take it one game at a time and go hard in practice,” said Pridemore who joins Williamstown as they travel to take on Tyler Consolidated at 7:30 p.m. in Kidwell.