Whaley comes up clutch to force OT in Williamsport win

KATELYN HIBBARD/Sun-Gazette Williamsport’s Jada Whaley goes up for a shot at Williamsport against Jersey Shore during a game on Saturday.

All those times Jada Whaley practiced draining last-second shots over her father’s outstretched hands paid off Saturday night and provided her an unforgettable moment.

Those previous shots gave Whaley bragging rights. This one and all the ones that followed delivered Williamsport its most thrilling win this season.

Whaley hit a long, buzzer-beating 3-pointer that forced overtime against visiting Jersey Shore, dominated the game’s final minute and hit four straight free throws in the last 25 seconds as Williamsport rallied past the Bulldogs, 63-60 in one of the most exciting games any District 4 teams have produced this season. The Millionaires (10-9) overcame a five-point deficit in the last 9.9 seconds of regulation with Whaley scoring all five on her way to totaling 29 points and making five steals.

“I was really excited. I was happy for that. It just happened to be me and I was really happy I made the (buzzer-beating) shot,” Whaley said. “I practice that a lot with my dad because we will go and work out and I’m pretty fast so I can do that kind of stuff.”

Whaley has played many outstanding games during a fantastic four-year scholastic career, but last night might have been her best. It was a collective effort and a team that was down two injured starters most of the game pulled together at the most crucial times. Still, Whaley was the engine that powered Williamsport and when there was no margin for error, she was at her best. How huge that was on a night all-state Jersey Shore guard Hannah Kauffman scored 33 points and her teammates delivered a well-rounded, determined performance.

The lead changed hands seven times in the fourth quarter before Kauffman hit a go-ahead jumper with a minute left and added four more consecutive points as Jersey Shore took a 55-50 lead. The Bulldogs played solid defense on Williamsport’s ensuing possession, but Whaley worked through it and hit a long jumper that made it 55-52 with 9.9 seconds left. When the Bulldogs missed two foul shots at the 4-second mark, Samiyah Little grabbed the rebound. A loose ball ended up in Kalindi Maggs’ hands near midcourt and she whipped a pass toward Whaley who was standing well beyond the 3-point line.

With no time to dribble, Whaley lofted a shot that hit nothing but net, setting off a celebration and stunning Jersey Shore.

The Bulldogs, though, did not stay down and Kauffman’s 3-pointer gave it a 60-57 lead with 85 seconds left. Whaley then asked to cover Kauffman and provided blanket coverage the rest of the way. She made three steals from that point on and she went to the line for a 1-and-1 with 25 seconds remaining.

Whaley, who also had eight rebounds and dealt four assists, already had hit the game’s most difficult shot, so the free throws felt easy. She drained both and then blocked a shot 10 seconds later. Another steal followed and she calmly hit two more foul shots at the 5-second mark, making it 63-60. Fittingly, Whaley made her last steal on the inbounds pass clinching Williamsport’s most dramatic win.

“I just had a lot of confidence there. I was thinking I’m good at foul shots, so I’m going to make them because I want to win the game,” Whaley said. “I needed to step up and start to help the younger girls. I know when I leave they’re going to have to get in the flow and do that kind of stuff. I’m just trying to be there and show them how to do it.”

“Jada was big. She came over to me and asked to cover Kauffman and that showed a lot because it showed she was giving maximum effort to win,” Williamsport coach Terrill Seward-Buxton said. “She played incredible defense and forced a couple turnovers that were huge.”

So too were the contributions of her teammates. Williamsport was already playing without second-leading scorer Katelyn Wilson who sat out with an ankle injury. Then Little was injured early in the second quarter and did not return until the third. Starting guard Fondrea McClain missed most of the second quarter with an injury then suffered a concussion early in the third and starting forward Emily Pardee picked up three first-half fouls.

Through it all, Williamsport persevered. Little returned and played a dazzling game, scoring eight points, grabbing 13 rebounds and blocking eight shots. Maggs hit four clutch second-half shots and produced a career-high 12 points. Freshmen Kailee Heimrich and Serina Beiter provided valuable minutes and Pardee made some key late defensive plays. These are the games Williamsport would have lost in the past, but the Millionaires have won four out of their last five and showed they are both talented and tough last night.

“Everyone that got in the game contributed. There are a lot of positives out of it and that win means a lot coming down the stretch,” Seward-Buxton said. “That’s not the coaches. That’s them wanting to listen to us and take what we’re trying to tell them onto the court and having more pride in their effort out there which has been big. As the season goes on you can see them doing the little things that we need to be doing to win.”

Last night was not about Jersey Shore losing a game, it was all about Williamsport winning it. The Bulldogs (11-9), a team with three new starters this season, played an outstanding game, erasing a six-point second-quarter deficit and quickly responding whenever the Millionaires took a second-half lead. The second-half lead changed hands seven times and the Bulldogs kept answering as they matched Williamsport’s quickness and fought hard inside.

Williamsport led by one at halftime and Kauffman’s coast-to-coast layup tied it 40-40 after three. Whaley made a steal and layup to put Williamsport up 50-49, but Kauffman came back and sank a long jumper before making the four straight foul shots that looked like might seal an exciting win.

“We got what we wanted and it just didn’t work out. Those are things you take with you and you say could have, would have, should have but Williamsport played very hard, we played very hard and they just hit one more shot,” Jersey Shore coach Darrin Bischof said. “They wanted this one bad and it just didn’t work out. I’m going to learn a lot if they can bounce back Monday against Mifflinburg.”

Kauffman was sensational once again, scoring 33 points, making six steals, grabbing five rebounds and adding four assists. The senior scored 16 points in the fourth quarter and overtime, doing damage inside and outside. Sadie Griswold was all over the court, recording a double-double with 10 points, 12 rebounds and six steals. Brielle Hess added steals and Aubrey Stetts scored six points.

Ultimately, Jersey Shore was hurt at the foul line where it made just 16 of 34 shots. Still, the Bulldogs gave a strong performance and showed why they could be a tough District 4 Class AAAA opponent if they build off this game.

“We were hustling and working hard,” Bischof said. “We can take from this game and move on. We have two more tough games and we have to get ready for playoffs and that’s what we’re going to do.”

Williamsport 63, Jersey Shore 60

JERSEY SHORE (60)

Hannah Kauffman 11 10-17 33, Aubrey Stetts 2 2-5 6, Sadie Griswold 4 2-3 10, Hailey Stetts 2 0-2 5, Reba Lorson 0 0-0 0, Brielle Hess 2 2-7 6, Aubrey Schilling 0 0-0 0. Totals 21 16-34 60.

WILLIAMSPORT (63)

Jada Whaley 10 6-6 29, Emily Pardee 1 2-2 4, Samiyah Little 4 0-0 8, Fondrea McClain 1 0-1 2, Kalindi Maggs 5 1-1 12, Sophia Erb 1 0-0 2, Kailee Heimrich 2 0-0 4, Whitney Felix 0 0-0 0, Jessica Robinson 0 0-0 0, Serina Beiter 1 0-0 2. Totals 25 9-11 63.

Jersey Shore 10 16 14 15 5–60

Williamsport 11 16 13 15 8–63

3-point goals: Jersey Shore 2 (Kauffman 1, H. Stetts 1), Williamsport 4 (Whaley 3, Maggs 1).

Records: Williamsport (10-9), Jersey Shore (11-9).

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