After each game this season, Wilde Lake coach Caitlin Williams compared scores from previous years to see how her team fared against those opponents in the past. She found that even though her Wildecats were on the losing end in many of those contests, they were moving in the right direction.
That fact was evident on Thursday when Wilde Lake hosted James M. Bennett in the opening round of the Class 3A East playoffs.
After falling to the Clippers by five points in last season’s first round contest, the Wildecats turned the tables on J.M. Bennett with a dominating performance in a 49-29 victory.
“We’ve grown so much. We’re not even in the same zip code as we were last year,” Williams said. “Last season we were getting beat by 30 or 40 points in some games but this year we’ve been competitive.
“This is my third year as head coach and the girls have really bought into the vision. They’ve gone the extra mile and that’s what we’ve been trying to get them to do.”
Freshman guard Rachel Lazris scored a game-high 15 points for the Wildecats (5-17), who picked up their first playoff victory since 2008. Junior post Lindsey Williams recorded a triple-double with 12 points, 13 rebounds and 12 blocks.
“We really played as a team today,” Lindsey Williams said. “It’s been a long time since Wilde Lake has won in the playoffs. This has been a building year and we’ve seen a big improvement.”
Wilde Lake had little trouble handling the Clippers’ 3-2 zone defense, making quick passes to get open looks. Even when Bennett decided to go man-to-man, they were overmatched in the paint thanks to the size of Wilde Lake’s frontcourt players.
The Wildecats took control of the game early and never looked back after closing the first quarter on a 17-2 run. Brynn Drury sparked the run with a put-back bucket and Lazris ended it with a 3-pointer at the buzzer for a 19-4 lead after the first quarter.
“We really came together as a team and kept our thoughts positive,” Lazris said. “Our plan was to get as far ahead as possible with a strong run and compose ourselves on defense.”
Wilde Lake didn’t allow very much on the defensive end. Along with Williams’ 13-block effort, Kourtney Harrison and Roya Babaturk each added a pair of rejections and the team forced 20 Bennett turnovers.
A put-back Harrison (nine points, eight boards) gave Wilde Lake a 28-11 advantage at halftime, and back-to-back buckets by Lazris pushed the Wildecats’ lead to 25 late in the third quarter.
Wilde Lake moves on to face No. 2 seed Stephen Decatur on the Eastern Shore Monday in the quarterfinals round.
JB: Hudson 7, Franicios 7.
WL: Williams 13, Harrison 8, Drury 3, Alexander 3.
JB: Hall 1, Ross 1.
WL: Lazris 3, Williams 2, Corbett 2.