One watching Williamsport early this season could view the team as a puzzle. The Millionaires have talented and versatile guards along with a potentially explosive inside duo, but also are relatively young and coming off a five-win season.
While the team is still a work in progress, the pieces are starting to come together. And if Williamsport puts this puzzle all together as the season progresses, just about anything seems possible.
All five starters scored at least eight points Thursday at home as Williamsport routed Central Mountain, 60-25, winning for the fourth time in five games. The Millionaires (6-4) led from start to finish and have already exceeded last year's win total.
Williamsport’s Amy Southard, left, drives the lane for a basket on Thursday night as Central Mountain’s Lydia McCaleb defends at Williamsport. View additional photos at cu.sungazette.com
"Each game we're getting better and finding out how to play together. If we can get that chemistry it's kind of scary the potential that we have," Williamsport coach Derek Slaughter said. "They are starting to see it too. Winning breeds winning so we're starting to get that winning mentality a little bit."
Williamsport has won nearly as many games during this five-game stretch as it did all of last season. Defenses are having a hard time figuring how to try and slow them down and the Millionaires are showing they can beat teams in a variety of ways.
Six-footers Jaynell Robinson and Jahnae Hall-Gaddy have the ability to dominate inside and Williamsport worked its offense inside, then outside last night. The results were impressive as it built an early 14-0 lead that was never threatened.
"The team chemistry is so much better this year. It's so much more fun to play," senior guard Amy Southard said. "We're all stepping up. We have more experience and we're a good team this year."
Southard and Hall-Gaddy each scored a team-high 11 points and point guard Chloe Jennings added 10 points, four assists and three steals. Forward Lydia Whaley had eight points and seven rebounds and Robinson had eight points and eight rebounds in less than three quarters.
Robinson, a sophomore, scored a career-high 34 points last Monday against Danville and Central Mountain focused on slowing her down. That, however, created more opportunities for everyone else and that is the dilemma now facing opposing defenses. Jennings also did damage with her penetration, forcing the defense to back off the post players while dealing four straight assists at one point in the second quarter.
"I keep telling the guards you're going to get your looks but we still want to attack and draw that defense because then the bigs will be really wide open," Slaughter said. "Building chemistry is what we continue to work on in practice. It's getting better every day in practice but we still have a lot of season ahead of us and a lot of work to do."
Williamsport dominated from start to finish and led 14-0 less than five minutes into the game. Central Mountain (0-10) pulled within 12 by the end of the first quarter, but Jennings had a hand in 10 straight points and the Millionaires opened a 30-6 lead midway through the second.
Myeesha Peterson came off the bench to make a game-high six steals. Jaid Harsch was big off the bench, too, grabbing nine rebounds and making several hustle plays in less than two quarters after competing in an indoor track meet earlier in the evening. Formidable opponents remain, but Williamsport provided a glimpse of what it can do when all those pieces are working together.
"We work together and we work hard," Southard said. "When they (Robinson and Hall-Gaddy) are seniors they will be great. They are going to be amazing."
Central Mountain might be the area's youngest team, starting all underclassmen. The team is mostly sophomores and freshmen and, although the score did not reflect it last night, progress is being made. The Wildcats are playing much better than they did early this season when they opened the season by being held scoreless for the first 14 minutes.
The Wildcats ran some good sets and made some good passes last night so things are getting better. Sophomore Mary Monoski is making a big impact and scored a game-high 17 points and grabbing eight rebounds. She is averaging close to 14 points per game and giving the Wildcats a nice foundation to build upon.
"From what we've seen in them so far it's really a testament to how they're working and how far they have come," said Central Mountain coach Lindsey Rogers, the program's all-time leading scorer and former Bucknell standout. "We haven't won a game yet, but the girls work hard when they come to practice every day and they work hard in games. We're fighting to improve every game and we're fighting to win and things like that so we're not giving up."
Neither is Williamsport. The Millionaires lost three straight following a 2-0 start earlier this season. Instead of thinking things were going to go as they did last year, they went back to work and committed to get better. The results have been impressive and the best might be yet to come.
"We kind of have everything right now so if we get the pieces to fall in place we could be real dangerous," Slaughter said. "It's just a matter of getting it all together."
CENTRAL MOUNTAIN (25)
Mary Monoski 5 7-11 17, Lydia McCaleb 1 0-0 2, Katie Parks 1 0-2 2, Emily Strouse 0 0-0 0, Lacey Kitner 0 0-0 0, Erica Augenbaugh 0 1-2 1, Grayson McCloy 0 0-4 0, Elaina Eckley 1 0-0 3, Alexis Anastos 0 0-0 0. Totals 8 8-19 25.
Jaynell Robinson 2 4-6 8, Lydia Whaley 2 4-4 8, Amy Southard 4 1-2 11, Chloe Jennings 4 2-3 10, Jahnae Hall-Gaddy 4 3-4 11, Myeesha Peterson 3 0-0 7, Olivia Erb 0 0-0 0, Jaid Harsch 2 0-0 5, Tauntyonah Guinter 0 0-0 0, Nicole Cillo 0 0-0 0, Rachel Jackson 0 0-0 0. Totals 21 14-19 60.
C. Mountain6 3 7 9-25
Williamsport18 16 17 9-60
3-pointers: CM 1 (Eckley); Williamsport 4 (Southard 2, Peterson, Harsch).
Records: Williamsport 6-4. Central Mountain 0-10.