Scott Steinbrecher’s message to the Portland High School girls basketball team, and particularly to his three seniors, before the Lady Panthers’ 67-29 win over neighboring White House was simple.
“I told the three seniors to enjoy the moment, enjoy the warm-ups and walking out of the locker room, but know when to flip the switch and start playing” Steinbrecher — the Lady Panther head coach — said.
Portland did just that in rolling to the 36-pont win.
The Lady Panthers jumped out to an early advantage and led comfortably throughout the contest. Portland was on top 33-15 at halftime and extended that to 23 at the end of three periods.
Steinbrecher’s three seniors — Lillie Whitehead, Lexie Williams and Eme Loza — combined for 38 of their team’s point total.
“These girls have changed the culture her at Portland,” Steinbrecher said. “Win or lose tonight, it wouldn’t make me love them anymore or any less. The culture is better because of these three seniors. Our locker room is close, and it’s like a family.”
Whitehead led all scorers with 19 points, including 11 in the second stanza when the Lady Panthers put the game away. Junior Rayleigh Hester had 16 points. Williams chipped in with 13, and Katie McCloud finished with nine. Loza netted six, and Cheyenne Gregory and Nyaliep Rut rounded out the scoring with two apiece.
Portland made 24 field goals, including 10 3-pointers.
“White House always plays hard, and I knew we had to match that intensity, and we did,” Steinbrecher said. “I told the girls not to chase the scoreboard, just play hard, and we did that even in the fourth quarter when we were up 30-something points.”
Two quick baskets by Hester gave the Lady Panthers a lead they would never relinquish.
After a Chloe Hart basket put White House on the scoreboard, the Lady Panthers rolled off seven straight points as Whitehead cashed in on a steal and dropped in a pair of free throws while Hester scored three points to create an 11-2 edge.
Avery Droz and Marley Hyde finished up the scoring in the quarter for White House with back-to-back baskets but still trailed 11-6.
McCloud opened the second period with a 3-pointer for Portland before Droz connected for the visitors.
Whitehead fired in five points, and Hester sank two foul shots as Portland extended its margin to 13, 21-8, at the 5:14 mark.
Portland stretched its advantage to 18 at the half as Hester and McCloud each fired in a 3-pointer before McCloud added a soft jumper. Whitehead ended the half with two free throws.
Williams sparked the Lady Panthers in the third quarter with eight points, including a pair of 3-pointers, and Hester added four as the lead swelled to 23, 45-22, heading into the final eight minutes of action.
Loza reached the scoring column with a three-point bucket to open the fourth quarter, and Whitehead and McCloud followed with baskets for a 53-22 margin.
The Lady Panthers closed out the contest on a 14-7 run as Loza and Williams each drilled a shot from the three-point stripe.
Williams, Whitehead, and Gregory and Rut all recorded a field goal down the stretch.
Hart led White House offensively with nine points.