WINFIELD — Winfield thrives in a style of play where other teams won’t venture — at least not willingly.
By dictating pace, the Generals tend to impose their frenetic, chaotic fury on opponents.
So, even after missing its first 14 shots from the floor, Class AA No. 2 Winfield already had visiting No. 4 Wayne right where it wanted it on Thursday.
Eventually, the shots starting falling and Winfield built a 17-point lead at halftime that would reach as high as 25 before navigating some second-half foul trouble to cruise to a 65-42 victory that gave the Generals control of the Cardinal Conference, the Region 4 Section 1 top seed and maybe the inside track to a number-one ranking next week.
When the dust settled, Winfield (13-1) had forced 30 turnovers and taken 33 more shots from the floor than the Pioneers, using shot volume to trump shot percentage en route to another big win over a highly ranked opponent.
“We have been focusing on this game for a long time,” Winfield coach Kelsey Spang admitted. “In our conference and in our section, it’s always a rivalry but this was a good one for morale, and also we’re in a good position now. This was huge. Absolutely huge.”
With a three-team breakaway developing in the section (Wayne, Winfield and No. 7 Nitro), the top seed would seemingly have a much more navigable path to the sectional finals and an automatic berth into a Region 4 co-final.
But what wasn’t navigable — for most of the evening — was Winfield’s full-court press that wreaked havoc on Wayne from the outset. The Pioneers turned it over 18 times in the first half, and once the Generals started making a few shots in the second quarter there was just no way that Wayne could keep pace.
Winfield used an 11-2 early run to seize control and followed it with a 13-2 spurt that helped put the Generals up 34-17 at the break.
After it ballooned to 47-22 midway through the third, Wayne tried to chip away but could get no closer than 16 the rest of the way.
“When the game is that physical and we can’t withstand the physicality and you turn the ball over, you’ve got to be strong with the basketball,” Wayne coach Wade Williamson said. “We were not.”
Minor foul trouble in the first half turned into major woes in the third quarter as the game grinded to a crawl in terms of flow. A total of 16 fouls were called in the third period and it took some of both teams’ best players off the floor.
Winfield point guard ZZ Russell picked up her third and fourth fouls within the first two minutes of the second half, and shooting guard Mara McGrew got pinned with her fourth at the 3:52 mark.
That sent the Generals’ starting backcourt to the bench. But credit junior guard Kierstyn Doss and reserves Emily Bryant and Kennedy Dean for holding steady.
Meanwhile, Wayne’s Sara Hooks and Haley Wallace were both forced to the bench in the third quarter with four fouls.
Dean had six points and six rebounds and Bryant had seven rebounds and a team-high four assists to help steady the ship.
“Honestly those girls coming off the bench, whenever they hit key shots and get key rebounds, that’s what’s going to make our whole team more solidified,” Spang said.
The Generals went 3-0 on the week, including a 10-point win over No. 6 Lincoln at East Fairmont on Monday. Also on Winfield’s ledger are wins over Nitro and Class AAA No. 5 South Charleston.
No. 1 North Marion lost to Martinsburg on the same night, meaning the No. 1 spot in next week’s AP poll could be up for grabs.
But aside from the fact that the team is winning tough games where in the past it might not have, if one needs a sign of the maturity of the Generals, Russell’s response to a question about potentially being No. 1 should sum it up.
“The rankings give us a boost, but honestly anybody can win or lose,” Russell said. “Nitro lost to [Herbert] Hoover and no one expected that. North Marion lost to Martinsburg by one. Any given day, no game is guaranteed.”
Russell finished with 16 points with twins Emily Hudson (17 points, 12 rebounds) and Lauren Hudson (11 points, nine rebounds) combining to score 28 and pull down 21 boards.
Hooks paced Wayne with 13 points to go with 10 rebounds and Alana Eves finished with nine tallies and 12 boards.