Poland – Molly Williams dominated play defensively inside down the stretch and scored her team’s last six points to key a 65-59 win for coach Larry Stockwell’s Waterville squad at Poland. The 6-footer finished with 22 points in the Center State Conference crossover contest Saturday.
“It was one of my best games,” Williams said with a modest smile afterward. “I came out with more intensity.”
“And she’s just a freshman,” Stockwell said. “She’s gonna be a good one.
The January 9 girls basketball game between the Class C power and Class D contender Poland figured to be close and it was.
But it sure wasn’t at the beginning. Waterville raced to a 20-9 edge after one quarter and stretched the lead to 15 points before coach Jason Potempa’s Tornadoes rallied to lead 31-30 at the half. The visitors exploited their height advantage for most of the half before Poland closed with a 17-2 run. Nicole Ryan, a reserve, sparked it with a jump shot to cut Waterville’s lead to 28-16 then Shiane Irwin scored five straight points for the quicker Tornadoes. Alexis Decker countered with a fastbreak basket for Waterville (4-0, 8-2) but Whitney Butler fed Mikayla Blumenstock for a basket to get Poland back on track and Butler followed with a three. Blumenstock, Irwin and Jordan Batson closed the half by making field goals, Batson’s being a buzzer beater to give Poland (3-1, 7-4) a 31-30 edge.
The teams traded baskets to start the third quarter then Alexis Decker drove the baseline for a tying basket that sparked an 8-0 run that gave Waterville a lead it never lost.
But Poland came close to regaining it in an intense final quarter. Irwin took a pass from Claire Lepper to make a tying 3-pointer to start the stanza but Sophia Wittenbeck and Williams countered with baskets for a 53-49 edge.
Play then went back and forth until Aliah Decker made two foul shots to put Waterville ahead 57-53. Irwin countered with a long 3-pointer that Blumenstock set up but Williams took over from that point on to help seal the non-league win for two of Section III”s better teams.
“The second half we changed how we play our defense. They were weaker inside, so we had to go inside,” Stockwell said.
Poland was slightly weaker inside because Waterville is tall. But that wasn’t the most important factor according to Potempa.
“I’m not sure if it’s we came out flat or they came out on fire,” the youthful Poland coach said. “(Then) we went to a different zone and it helped stop them and in the second quarter we got some steals.”
Irwin had a handful of them, and like her coach she felt the slow start hurt.
“We just came out flat, like the last few games,” the junior guard said. “Then we started using our speed.”
The adjustment helped Irwin wind up with 25 points to lead all scorers. Butler was next best for the hosts with 10 points and Blumenstock added eight points plus 12 rebounds, six assists and five steals.
Alexis Decker had 17 points and Wittenbeck chipped in with 14 for Waterville’s other top efforts.
Waterville 20 10 19 16 – 65
Poland 9 22 15 13 – 59
Waterville (4-0, 8-2): Aliah Decker 4, Molly Williams 22, Alexis Decker 17, Kaelee Cleary 4, Sophia Wittenbeck 14, Jenna Pugliese 4.
Poland (3-1, 7-4): Shiane Irwin 25, Whitney Butler 10, Mikayla Blumenstock 8, Kiersten Tabor 6, Claire Lepper 4, Jordan Batson 4, Nicole Ryan 2.