MIDDLEBURG - Midd-West had a hot start, but Belleville Mennonite had an answer.
In the first period.
But the Mustangs converted too much and Belleville Mennonite struggled in the second, and the vacuum it created was too much for the Thunder to crawl out of.
Sentinel photo by CRAIG UREY
Midd-West’s Chloe Wagner drives to the basket as Belleville’s Melissa Yoder defends her in a non-league girls basketball game Thursday night at Midd-West High School.
Midd-West won the non-league girls basketball contest Thursday, 53-33.
The difference in the second period was Chloe Wagner. The diminutive sophomore guard played with poise and aggression, nailing the basket with a jump shot unexpected of someone below the roller coaster limit.
"She's one of the few girls on the team that has a jump shot," Midd-West coach Dave Fadale said. "She's got to get a little more arc on it at times. But she gets off the ground quick."
She's pretty speedy on the horizontal plane, too, and that's one of the reasons she was able to drive the Mustangs into a commanding lead. Her eight-point second represented nearly half the points for her team in that stanza, in which the Mustangs piled up 17 for a 30-15 lead when the teams headed to the locker room.
Thunder coach Ally Zook said she got what she wanted out of the gate, but not enough after that. Midd-West dropped the first three buckets, but Mollie Morgan went downtown twice to keep it close, and the game was briefly tied on a Grace Peachey 2-pointer.
"I was really pleased with how my girls played," Zook said. "The way it started, I was surprised. We haven't been able to start like that at all this season. I challenged them to do that, and they did it."
She was happy for Peachey, who struggled later in the game, something that became a factor as Midd-West piled up the points.
"She was doing better than what she has been. It's been awhile since she picked it up," Zook said. "She's been struggling the last couple games. She did better tonight - I was as happy with her tonight as I have been."
Belleville Mennonite was able to avoid a ton of turnovers despite being pressured - hard in the opening frame, when Fadale put a zone press on the Thunder. But he eventually backed off and worked the ball.
"We're not always as aggressive in (the press) as we should be," he said. "I like to have the guards pressure the ball so their guards can't find the open people. And we don't always trap well. For some reason we always have a hard time closing that sideline trap."
But with a new offense that's as young as some of his players, and the impact of weather closings that keep the teams out of the gym, it was a struggle at times to see what Midd-West was actually trying to do, aside from the obvious.
"We executed things better tonight. We're still getting our timing down," Fadale said. "We did a good job denying the ball. We were a little quicker than them. I think we took advantage of that."
The onslaught continued in the third; the Mustangs had a 44-23 edge going into the last eight minutes, the only time Belleville Mennonite was able to mount a scoring attack.
Morgan Shirk's steady presence on the floor was good for a game-high 16 points. Wagner finished with 15 and Brianna Beiler chipped in 12.
Peachey and Morgan each tallied nine for the Thunder.
Belleville Mennonite travels to Harrisburg Academy today, while Midd-West hosts Danville Saturday.