Over the past five seasons, the Wilde Lake girls basketball program collected just six victories in county play. After half a decade of hardship, it was evident that the team needed a new direction.
Insert first-year coach Bob Cranford, a new offense and a new brand of confidence, and things for this squad have started to turn around in the 2013-14 season.
Behind Rachel Lazris’ 16 points, and Lindsey Williams’ near triple-double effort with 14 points, 15 rebounds and six blocks Monday, the visiting Wildecats defeated Marriotts Ridge, 55-34, for their seventh county win of the season.
Caitlin Ohnmacht led Marriotts Ridge (1-14, 2-15) with eight points in the losing effort.
“They really turned it up a notch thanks to kids like Rachel (Lazris),” said Cranford. “She’s played really well this year, and she’s the quarterback of the team. Where she goes, the team goes.”
All season long, Cranford has preached playing all four quarters to his team – a goal he said they nearly completed against the Mustangs.
The Wildecats (7-10, 9-11) came out in the first quarter in a hurry, running to a 15-2 lead in the first six minutes of the game.
“They just couldn’t miss,” said Marriotts Ridge coach Caitlin Bay. “Our game plan was to make everyone else score, and they did. It was hard coming back from that early lead.”
In the first eight minutes, Lazris and Williams combined for 14 of their team’s 18 points, making their presence known on the floor.
Cranford’s girls found success in a stifling diamond press that gave Marriotts Ridge its share of trouble. For much of the first half, Lazris was flanked by teammates Alyssa Bialek, Brynn Drury and Ni’Jah Richardson in stopping the opposing offense from getting comfortable. Any drive in the paint seemed to be quickly thwarted by Lindsey Williams, who led the county in blocked shots last season. Her long frame gave her an advantage on the boards as well.
“She’s a workhorse,” said Cranford of his towering senior center. “She’s playing well. She has her ups and downs like everyone on this team, but she’s having a great season, and doing a great job in the middle.”
The second quarter was much of the same, with Drury (12 points on the day) getting into the action as well.
Budding team chemistry and an overall strong emotional connection between players has gone a long way for the Wildecats all season, according to Lazris. Combined with their abilities on the court, her team seemed to put it all together on Monday.
“We knew we could outhustle them,” she said of her team’s confidence against the Mustangs. “We were focused on staying focused.”
The theme of this winter, according to Lazris, has been limiting turnovers and minimizing mistakes. Forcing shots and holding onto the ball for too long have both been issues that have warranted adjustments over the course of the year. In the third quarter, Marriotts Ridge took advantage of a few of those familiar blunders.
Coming out of the break, down 32-16, the Mustangs got control of their offense and tallied points off turnovers and fast breaks. As a result, Bay’s girls outscored the visitors, 9-6.
Inside the final minute of the third quarter, the momentum started to swing in favor of Marriotts Ridge. Then, Wilde Lake got a boost from Drury, who converted on a layup and subsequent free-throw attempt to bring the lead to 14. An eight-point swing to start the fourth quarter essentially put the game away for Wilde Lake.
With just two more games against county foes remaining on the schedule, the Wildecats won't quite make it to an even record in county play. Still, Cranford said the rebuilding of this program will take time. For now, he's happy with the development he's already seen.
“I told them at the beginning of the year that we weren’t going to go from the bottom to the top,” he said. “It’s just getting them to play four quarters. It may not happen this year, but we’re getting there. And when we do, teams are going to have to watch out.”
Wilde Lake 55, Marriotts Ridge 34
WL: Rachel Lazris 16, Lindsey Williams 14, Brynn Drury 12, Ni’Jah Richardson 3, Nahfisa Richardson 3, Rhyan Gill 2, Alyssa Bialek 2.
MR: Caitlin Ohnmacht 8, Caroline Blalock 7, Cassie Evans 5, Marissa Davey 4, Kali Taylor 4, Jenna Bergquist 3, Sarah Blalock 1.
Half: 32-16, Wildecats.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun