As he has other times this season, Wildcats coach Chris Malott challenged his team to play strong after the intermission of Thursday’s game against Clear Spring.
This time, it clicked.
The Wildcats came out firing after the break and outscored Clear Spring 16-4 in the period on the way to a 54-31 victory over the Blazers in an MVAL Antietam game.
“We’ve had bad third quarters all year, I mean blowout third quarters,” Malott said. “And we talked about it again at halftime tonight. We were up 10 and I told them we wanted to get it to 15 or 20 by the end of the third.”
Williamsport (5-6, 4-4) did that and more, pushing its advantage to 39-17 by the end of the third by increasing defensive pressure and forcing seven turnovers in that period alone.
The Wildcats started the period quickly, too. Leading 23-13, Carley Robinson was fouled scoring on an inside move and converted the free throw for a three-point play.
Kate Wade followed with a 3-pointer, then scored on a drive down the right side of the lane to push the lead to 31-13.
“The first three minutes of the second half you don’t want to let them back in the game and we’ve allowed that to happen too much,” Malott said. “That fast start was the key.”
The Blazers (4-9, 0-7) were never closer than 16 points the rest of the way.
“They really turned up the pressure on us on defense in the second half,” said Clear Spring coach Bill McIntire. “With all the young girls we have, it’s a learning process for us.”
Clear Spring did, however, start the first half quickly, jumping out to a 5-0 lead in the first 2 1/2 minutes of the game thanks to physical inside play from Sam Staley and Kristen Mellott.
But just two minutes later, the Wildcats had rattled off seven straight points — four of those on a pair of long jumpers by Caroline Strite — to take a 7-5 lead and force McIntire to use a timeout.
Staley hit 1 of 2 free throws coming out of the timeout to pull the Blazers within one, but Victoria Key scored from the top of the circle and Robinson added two free throws to push Williamsport ahead by five and start the Wildcats rolling.
“I told them Clear Spring would come ready to play and they did,” Malott said. “When they went up 5-0, I thought we just needed to score to get things going and Caroline hit those jumpers.”
Ten Williamsport players cracked the scoring column, with Wade and Karli Grimes leading the team with 10 points apiece. Hannah Kastelein grabbed 12 rebounds.
Staley and Jenn Lipinski led the Blazers with five points each and Mellott had six rebounds.
Williamsport 54, Clear Spring 31
CLEAR SPRING (4-9, 0-7)
Mellott 4, Staley 5, Forsman 2, Elwood 4, Lipinski 5, Haislip 4, Weaver 3, Reynard 4. Totals 10 11-19 31.
WILLIAMSPORT (5-6, 4-4)
Ca. Leung 4, Co. Leung 1, Grimes 10, Key 4, Strite 6, Wade 10, Robinson 7, Kastelein 6, Coleman 5, Palmer 1. Totals 21 11-18 54.
Clear Spring 9 4 4 14 — 31
Williamsport 15 8 16 15 — 54
3-point goals — Williamsport 1 (Wade).