WESTMORELAND The Westmoreland High School girls basketball program has had some hard-fought games with neighboring rival Portland in recent seasons.
However, the Lady Eagles found a way to come out on top for the 19th consecutive meeting between the two programs on Tuesday evening, overcoming an early deficit to capture a 45-35 victory over the visiting Lady Panthers.
“We’ve kind of always beat them,” Westmoreland senior Haley Braswell said. “We want to keep that tradition going.
“They’re definitely a lot better than they’ve been in the past. They’re a lot quicker. We knew it would be a challenge.”
Portland’s hopes of snapping the skid suffered a serious blow in the early stages, with seniors Al Chatmon and Cristina Herrera picking up two fouls each over the game’s first six minutes.
That was just the beginning of the foul trouble though as senior guard Erica Keen and sophomore point guard Rachel Jennings were whistled for three fouls in the first half.
“Four of our starting give … two had three fouls and the other had two,” Lady Panther head coach Miranda Cravens said. “Our foul trouble took us completely out of our game. Foul trouble and turnovers hurt us.”
Braswell added, “That was our game plan, to get them in foul trouble. We knew they were only going to play seven (players). We wanted to get them in foul trouble and go at the subs (substitutes). We started slow and played better as the game went on.”
Portland (1-2) started strong though, building a 9-3 lead as Chatmon, Herrera and juniors Mackenzie Trouten and McKenzie Fletcher all had early baskets.
The lead was 14-11 entering the second quarter, but the Lady Eagles (1-1) took over from there, forcing nine turnovers in the second period.
“We talked about being up the line more,” Westmoreland head coach Cherie Abner said. “We’re not very good on the ball (defensively). We have to work on our on-the-ball defense. We got in the gaps and helped a little bit more.”
Two free throws from Jennings and Herrera’s layin late in the half accounted for all of the Lady Panthers’ second-quarter offense.
“I don’t know what was the difference,” Cravens said. “I felt like we had control of the game. Then, we couldn’t keep the focus going. It’s also having a young point guard. The other guards are older, but they are used to coming here and it not going our way.
“We have to be tougher mentally.”
Braswell’s second of four 3-pointers placed her squad in front to stay with 5:42 remaining in the first half.
“They (the coaches) said that they were going to leave us open,” Braswell said. “We knew they were going to double down on the posts. Coach Abner said that if you are going to shoot it to knock it down.
“I think we had a good balance of getting it to the post and shooting outside shots.”
Abner added, “They had a pretty good scheme. They were going to make us shoot it outside. Braswell was big tonight.”
The Lady Eagle lead was at seven points at halftime, but interior baskets from Trouten and Chatmon early in the second half quickly created a three-point margin.
However, Westmoreland junior forward Karley Smith scored eight of her game-high 18 points in the third period, and she, Braswell and senior Jesica Eppstein all had baskets during a 7-0 run to start the fourth quarter, extending the lead to 17 points (42-25).
“We gave up too much in the first quarter, but we got better defensively as the game went on,” Abner said. “I thought we rebounded well. We haven’t done that in practice, in the preseason or in the first game (a two-point loss to Hendersonville seven days earlier). We worked on that this week in practice.”
Portland pulled back to within eight points when Jennings made a runner with 32 seconds left, but free throws by juniors Kaitlyn Norman and Gracie Oliver sealed the win.
“Foul trouble and turnovers hurt us,” Cravens said. “Turnovers are the main reason we lost … and just not being mentally tough. This is a tough place to play. We didn’t respond very well when things didn’t go our way.”
Trouten finished with a team-high 11 points.
The Lady Panthers host rival White House on Tuesday.
Westmoreland plays another neighboring rival on Saturday, traveling to Lafayette to face Macon County.
Reach Craig Harris at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 615-575-7138. Follow him on Twitter @HarrisGNESports.
PORTLAND (35) – Mackenzie Trouten 11, Al Chatmon 6, Cristina Herrera 5, Erica Keen 5, McKenzie Fletcher 4, Rachel Jennings 4.
WESTMORELAND (45) – Karley Smith 18, Haley Braswell 12, Gracie Oliver 6, Kaitlyn Norman 4, Jesica Eppstein 2, Lexie McCormick 2, Darby Bowser 1.
Half: 25-18, Westmoreland. Three-point goals: Portland 2 (Herrera 1, Trouten 1), Westmoreland 4 (Braswell 4). Records: Portland 1-2, Westmoreland 1-1.