Millionaires put all their pieces together in victory

MARK NANCE/Sun-Gazette Williamsport’s Samiyah Little throws the ball back inbounds during the third quarter Thursday vs. Central Mountain.

Forward Shelly Floyd scored Williamsport’s first points when she converted a 3-point play. Katelyn Wilson hit a 3-pointer a few seconds later and Williams­port immediately found its stride.

This is what Williamsport has been searching for all year. The Millionaires have shown flashes all year. They have teased their fans at times, displaying the ingredients that could make them an imposing opponent, but never cooking the entire entree.

That ended Thursday night. Finally, all the pieces fit and Williamsport played its best game in two years.

Wilson scored 13 of her 15 points in the opening quarter, Floyd helped control the paint and Jada Whaley brilliantly ran the offense as Williamsport routed Central Mountain, 66-21. Yes, the Millionaires (5-15) were expected to beat the winless Wildcats, but it what how they did so that looked especially impressive and that could lead to good things come playoff time.

“We played as a team. We could have beaten a lot of teams before, but we just couldn’t put it all together,” Wilson said. “Tonight we put it all together.”

“I told the girls that was a collective win. Everyone did their part offensively and defensively,” Williamsport coach Demarr Wright said. “The opponent doesn’t matter because if you play like that against anybody the results might not be that dramatic, but you’re going to win basketball games.”

Williamsport will likely be the No. 3 seed in the District 2-4 Class AAAAAA playoffs and face either Scranton or Hazleton. The Millionaires played Hazleton tough last December and gave the state’s fifth-ranked Class AAA team a scare last Saturday. If Williamsport builds off last night’s performance, it could start trading moral victories for big ones.

This is a team with two strong post players in Floyd (12 points) and Samiyah Little. Whaley is one of the area’s premier guards and Wilson is a breakout player who has become an excellent shooter. Gabby Thomas hits the boards hard and players like Emily Pardee, Whitney Felix and Fondrea McClain provide quality depth. And against Central Mountain everything clicked.

Williamsport never trailed, produced four double-digit scorers, drained seven 3-pointers and inflicted the mercy rule less than four minutes into the third quarter. Central Mountain could not focus on slowing one player or one aspect of Williamsport’s game because everything was working.

“We’re a much better team than we were at the beginning of the season,” Whaley said. “We’re making progress.”

“When you have Wilson and Whaley scoring like that and then we’re scoring well inside with Shelly and Samiyah we’re a hard team to beat,” Wright said. “Our record wouldn’t be what it is, so they have to continue what they did tonight against whoever else we’re playing.”

Wilson is a rising sophomore who played her best game, scoring 13 first-quarter points and helping Williamsport build a 24-10 lead. Wilson drained three first-quarter 3-pointers and had a hand in 17 of the team’s 24 points. When Central Mountain shadowed Wilson she became a facilitator and finished with five assists, along with three steals. That also created more opportunities for everyone else as Whaley and Floyd started doing a lot of damage.

“They didn’t come out on me so I just kept shooting. Then when they came out on me I was able to pass in,” Wilson said. “They will start saying we’re (she and Whaley) shooters and then one will come out on me or her. They have to worry about both of us, not just one of us and we have good post players, too.”

Whaley effectively carved up the Wildcats with her passing early. The three-year starter had five first-quarter assists and dealt her sixth within the second-quarter’s opening minute. Whaley almost always is the primary focus of opposing defenses and her ability to run the offense and involve everyone made Williamsport especially potent.

Wilson’s early scoring barrage mixed with Floyd and Little playing well inside forced Central Mountain off Whaley more and the point guard pounced, scoring 12 of her 14 points in the middle quarters. Whaley hit two straight 3-pointers midway through the second quarter and ignited a 25-0 run that bridged the second and third quarters. Williamsport led by 16 when Whaley started the run. By the time it ended, the Millionaires were up 54-12 halfway through the third quarter and the starters were able to rest and stay healthy for the last 1 1/2 quarters.

“We swang the ball and found the open players. We can beat a lot of teams, we just have to work as a team,” Whaley said. “I think we’ll do it more now and put it together better. The next couple games we should really do it.”

Williamsport also made Central Mountain’s life miserable with some swarming defense. The Millionaires allowed no second-quarter field goals, forced 12 first-half turnovers and ignited a dangerous transition game. Felix and McClain were especially strong off the bench. Felix scored a season-high 10 points while connecting on two 3-pointers. McClain gave Central Mountain fits with her speed, scoring six points, grabbing a game-high eight rebounds and making four steals.

Williamsport has thought it could be a good team all year. Now it knows it can be. It just has to repeat the formula that produced so much success Thursday.

“I tell them if you would just listen to what we tell you we’ll be successful. Hopefully after today’s win it lets them know,” Wright said. “It was nice to watch them doing what they were doing. When everybody is doing their job and doing what they’re supposed to do we’re a pretty good basketball team.”

CENTRAL MOUNTAIN (21)

Taylor Fletcher 2 0-0 4, Marissa Moyer 2 0-0 5, Morgan Wetzel 2 0-0 4, Madison Courter 0 0-0 0, Talyn Fredericks 0 2-2 2, Katie Burrows 0 1-3 1, Summer Flanagan 0 0-0 0, Hayley Bauer 1 0-2 2, Alyssa Fisher 1 0-0 3. Totals 8 3-0 21.

WILLIAMSPORT (66)

Jada Whaley 6 0-0 14, Samiyah Little 3 0-0 6, Shelly Floyd 5 2-3 12, Gabby Thomas 1 0-0 2, Katelyn Wilson 6 0-0 15, Emily Pardee 0 0-0 0, Fondrea McClain 3 0-1 6, Whitney Felix 3 3-3 10, Sophia Erb 0 1-2 1, Kalindi Maggs 0 0-0 0, Jayla Bartholomew 0 0-0 0. Totals 27 5-13 66.

Central Mountain 10 2 2 7–21

Williamsport 24 19 14 9–66

3-pointers: C. Mountain 2 (Moyer, Fisher); Williamsport 7 (Wilson 3, Whaley 2, Felix 2).

Records: Williamsport 5-15. Central Mountain 0-20.

JV Score: Williamsport 54-37.

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