Boyd’s Miss Bas­ket­ball can­di­date dom­i­nates

Lexington Herald-Leader (Sunday) - - Sports / Classif Ied - BY JARED PECK

If Boyd County stand­out Sa­van­nah Wheeler’s not mak­ing state­ment enough for Miss Bas­ket­ball this sea­son, her coach is happy to make it for her.

“I’ve said all along, she’s the best player in the state,” said Lions Coach Pete Fra­ley af­ter his team knocked Her­aldLeader pre­sea­son No. 3 Ryle (10-1) out of the Tra­di­tional Bank Hol­i­day Clas­sic Satur­day at Lex­ing­ton Catholic with a 71-63 vic­tory. “She’s Miss Bas­ket­ball to me. I don’t know what the vot­ers will say or what­ever, but if I’m watch­ing these games and had a vote, I’d cast it for this one right here.”

If they were watch­ing Satur­day morn­ing, they would have seen the Mar­shall com­mit go off for 42 points in an over­time win over No. 12 Mercer County, the two-time de­fend­ing state champs, in the quar­ter­fi­nals.

She capped the day by scor­ing 40 on Ryle, last year’s 9th Re­gion win­ner. Boyd County (9-1) en­tered the sea­son as the Her­ald-Leader’s No. 8 team, ac­cord­ing to its sur­vey of coaches.

But it wasn’t easy, and she had plenty of help.

Down 43-36 mid­way through the third quar­ter, Boyd’s Gra­cie Opell and Wheeler com­bined for an 8-0 run to keep the Lions close as it looked like Ryle was try­ing to run away with it af­ter trail­ing by as many as seven in the first half.

“I used a cou­ple of time­outs early be­cause I wanted to stop their runs,” Fra­ley said.

Opell hit two of her four three-point­ers sand­wiched around a Wheeler drive and layup. Opell’s sec­ond three put Boyd up 44-43 with just over three min­utes left in the pe­riod. Both threes came on kick­out passes.

“I’m just do­ing what I usu­ally do - just drive and kick and that’s what we do best is shoot­ing threes,” Wheeler said.

Opell has only been in the start­ing lineup a few games af­ter an­other player’s in­jury.

“She stepped in and she has that po­ten­tial to knock down those shots like she did and they were big­time shots,” Fra­ley said. “They were putting a lot of at­ten­tion on Sa­van­nah, and Sa­van­nah gave it up to her and she knocked them down.”

Wheeler scored 18 points in the first half with four deep three-point­ers from well be­hind the arc as Ryle seemed to dare her to shoot.

“She sees the floor so well. And you talk about range, it’s un­lim­ited,” Fra­ley said. “She hit one the other night from about 30 feet. When she’s on, she’s on. We just turn her loose.”

In the sec­ond half,

Ryle started match­ing up the big­ger Mad­die Scherr on her, one of the top high school ju­niors in the na­tion ac­cord­ing to ESPN’s rat­ing sys­tem.

“That was a lit­tle bit dif­fi­cult for me with her size, but as soon as she went out of the game we knew that we just had to drive it more and then oth­ers stepped up,” Wheeler said.

Scherr con­trib­uted 19 points and nine re­bounds, but got into foul trou­ble in the sec­ond half. Her fifth foul came on her third charge of the game with her team up 54-52. Ryle Coach Katie Hertz protested and was as­sessed a tech­ni­cal.

Wheeler hit both free throws to tie it at 54. On Boyd’s next pos­ses­sion she took a hand­off in the left cor­ner and nailed one of her seven three­p­oint­ers to put the Lions up 57-54. It was the 17th and fi­nal lead change of the game.

Opell fin­ished with 13 points, while Har­ley Payn­ter con­trib­uted 12 for Boyd. Graci Bor­ders led the Lions with 11 re­bounds. Ryle’s Lau­ren Schwartz, a Rice com­mit, led the Raiders with 25 points. Juliet McGre­gor con­trib­uted nine points and a game-high 13 re­bounds.

Ryle made the semi­fi­nals with an 83-54 drub­bing of No. 11 Male in the morn­ing ses­sion. The Raiders put four scorers in dou­ble dig­its in that game, led by Brie Crit­ten­den’s 24 points.

Boyd ad­vances to play HIgh­lands at 6:15 p.m. Sun­day. High­lands beat Si­mon Ken­ton, 47-41, in Satur­day’s sec­ond semi­fi­nal. Ryle will meet Si­mon Ken­ton team in the tour­na­ment’s third­place game at 4:30 p.m. Other con­so­la­tion games be­gin at noon.

Both High­lands and Si­mon-Ken­ton ousted teams that might have been con­sid­ered fa­vorites over them ear­lier in the tour­na­ment. Si­mon-Ken­ton beat No. 1 Mercy in the quar­ter­fi­nals. High­lands topped Lin­coln County in the first round.


Boyd's Sa­van­nah Wheeler faces Ryle in the Tra­di­tional Bank Hol­i­day Clas­sic.

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