PHS-WC GIRLS HOOPS PHOTO

Portland High senior Eme Loza is fouled while shooting during Friday night’s 57-52 win over Wilson Central.

The Portland High School girls basketball defeated Wilson Central, 57-52, last Friday in a district match-up.

The Lady Panthers gave up the lead just once in the second quarter and built a double-digit margin in the final half.

Wilson Central rallied in the fourth period and trimmed the deficit to six on two occasions, but the Lady Panthers cashed in on all eight opportunities at the free-throw line in the final minute to seal the win.

PHS head coach Scott Steinbrecher’s message to his squad at halftime was simple with a nine-point advantage at the break.

“I told the girls it’s 0-0, and there was another 16 minutes to play,” Steinbrecher said. “We hadn’t been in that position of having a big lead at halftime a lot, and if we approach it any other way than 0-0, we would be in trouble.

“We knew it would be a battle and that Wilson Central would make a run. They have good players. It was a good district win for us.”

Portland uncorked six 3-pointers in the third period and was 19 of 21 from the free-throw line in the contest.

“The girls like to shoot,” Steinbrecher said. “We spent a lot of time at the break working on that.”

The Lady Panthers opened up a 9-4 lead in the first period as Lexie Williams fired in five points and Lillie Whitehead dropped in four. Wilson Central closed out the opening period with a basket to trail 9-6.

Whitehead scored four points to start the second quarter as Portland led 13-9 at the 5:55 mark.

Wilson Central came back by scoring six consecuctive points to hold its only advantage of the contest at 15-13 with 4:40 remaining before halftime.

However, the Lady Panthers scored the final 11 points of the half as Whitehead produced seven points and Williams and Kayla Wasilko each added a pair of foul shots for a 24-15 edge at the break.

Portland made six of their seven field goals from the three-point stripe in the third quarter to extend its lead in the third quarter.

Williams made two 3-pointers, and Eme Loza, Whitehead, Rayleigh Hester and Katie McCloud all drained one.

Wasilko added a short jumper late in the quarter for a 44-26 advantage.

The Lady Wildcats’ Sydney Dalton wrapped up the scoring with a basket that left her squad trailing 44-28 entering the final eight minutes of action.

After a bucket by the Lady Wildcats to open the fourth quarter, McClouddropped in a 3-pointer to increase Portland’s spread to 47-30 with 4:50 remaining.

Two straight field goals by the visitors cut the gap to 13, 47-34.

Hester connected inside, but three-point buckets from Kristen Smith and Dalton, along with a Jamey Ricketts 10-footer, pulled the Lady Wildcats to within seven points, 49-42.

Williams made two free throws before Campbell Strange’s old-fashioned three-point play left Wilson Central trailing by six, 51-45.

Loza was fouled and hit two charity tosses, but Strange connected inside to keep Wilson Central close.

Williams netted two more at the charity stripe. Strange scored her third straight field goal before Whitehead knocked down two at the foul line for a 57-49 lead.

Smith closed out the scoring with a 3-pointer.

“We had the kids we wanted at the free-throw line in the fourth,” Steinbrecher said. “They were able to step up and make them.”

Whitehead finished with a team-high 20 points, with Williams netting 17. McCloud had six, and Loza, Hester and Wasilko all tallied five points.

The Lady Panthers made 15 field goals, with eight coming at the three-point stripe.

Wilson Central connected on 20 field goals, including four from beyond the three-point stripe.

Strange paced her squad with 16 points, and Dalton provided 15.

Portland plays at Hendersonville on Friday night and will host Springfield on Saturday.

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