His Wyoming Valley West team was minutes removed from playing a terrific game and beating Williamsport, 67-45 on its home court. As happy as he was with the Spartans' performance, Valley West coach Paul Appel was equally impressed by Millionaire forward Aisha Evans.
Valley West won the game, but Evans showed why she is one of District 2/4's premier players. She scored a game-high 27 points, grabbed two rebounds and made eight steals despite giving up inches inside.
"She was unbelievable," Appel said. "She's not very tall but she uses her body so well. She has great quickness and she rebounds as well as anyone we've seen. We had to get on our girls at halftime for boxing out because if you don't box her out and give her half an inch she takes it. She's a great player."
Evans helped Williamsport (1-4) take a brief second-quarter lead and kept the Millionaires in the game until the third quarter when Valley West (4-2) started shredding the defense. She scored all 13 Williamsport second-quarter points and was a force in all areas, creating turnovers, displaying outstanding post moves and a nice perimeter game.
Now if some teammates make big contributions like they did in last week's victory over Westinghouse, Williamsport could be a much improved team as the season progresses.
"Aisha is our senior leader. She's our catalyst. She's the engine that drives us," Williamsport coach Derek Slaughter said. "Tonight she came out and proved why she's that senior leader, that go-to person. She tried to give us the energy we needed and now we just need a couple other girls to step up and be up with her as we go into Christmas and the new year."
Valley West has no seniors, but built on its good start and outscored Williamsport 36-18 in the second half. The Spartans have only lost to Lackawanna Division powers Honesdale and Scranton Prep and had three players score in double figures while making 23 of 42 shots over the final three quarters.
Point guard Cassie Smicherko was brilliant, scoring 17 points, dealing eight assists and making six steals. The junior dissected Williamsport's defense throughout the second half and had six of her assists during that time. She ran the court so well that, at times, it looked like Valley West was conducting a layup drill in the third quarter when it scored on eight straight possessions and turned a six-point halftime lead into a comfortable 52-36 advantage.
"She played an all-around game," Appel said. "She scored, she passed the ball well, she played amazing defense. She played really well and I was really happy with her."
Junior center Olivia Hoffman was tough inside, scoring 17 points, grabbing 10 rebounds and blocking eight shots in three quarters. Megan Kane added 14 points and Valley West never trailed after going on a 10-0 second-quarter run that turned a four-point deficit into a six-point lead.
Williamsport trailed 31-25 at halftime, but Valley West made eight straight shots at one point in the third quarter and answered any time the Millionaires scored.
"Everybody wants to win every game but they have stayed focused and played hard every game," Appel said. "The team is coming along. I'm really happy with the progress and they're all working super hard and that's all a coach can ask for."
Williamsport resembled the team that fought back from an 11-point third-quarter deficit and won in overtime last Saturday early against Wyoming Valley West. The Millionaires trailed by six in the first quarter, but a 15-5 run that bridged the first and second quarters put them ahead by four early in the second. Lydia Whaley had a hand in six consecutive points when the Millionaires took that lead.
Whaley played a solid all-around game, scoring nine points, grabbing eight rebounds and dealing five assists. Deidra Dunkleberger added seven points while freshman point guard Chloe Jennings flashed the ability that could make her one of the area's premier guards the next few years.
"Once we get more minutes under our belts at the guard spot heading into the stretch we can hopefully make some noise," Slaughter said. "It's a learning experience. We'll learn from this and look at some tape, make some adjustments and come ready to play Wednesday."
The Millionaires play Wellsboro Wednesday in the first game of the Montoursville Christmas Tournament. Mon-toursville plays Troy in the second game.
VALLEY WEST (67)
Olivia Hoffman 7 3-4 17, Cassie Smicherko 8 1-1 17, Savannah Piazza 4 0-0 8, Megan Kane 6 2-3 14, Lauren Lupinski 2 0-0 4, Tara Judge 2 1-2 5, Emily Tyler 1 0-0 2. Totals 30 7-10 67.
Aisha Evans 10 7-9 27, Deidra Dunkelberger 3 0-2 7, Lydia Whaley 3 3-4 9, Chloe Jennings 0 0-0 0, Jaid Harsch 1 0-0 2, Amy Southard 0 0-0 0, Mackenzie Bowman 0 0-0 0, Myeesha Peterson 0 0-0 0, Na'Shel Walker 0 0-0 0. Totals 17 10-15 45.
Valley West13 18 21 15-67
Williamsport12 13 11 9-45
3-pointers: Williamsport 1 (Dunkleberger).
Records: Valley West 4-2, Williamsport 1-4.