Wakefield’s 27 steals fuel win in girls basketball state quarterfinals
Wednesday, Feb. 27
Airielle Jenkins and the Wakefield Owls beat Broadwater, 49-23, Wednesday in the VISAA Division III state quarterfinals. --Times-Democrat Staff Photo/Randy Litzinger
Being the Wakefield Owls' all-time leading scorer isn't enough, apparently.
Wakefield coach Paul Sipes sat down with his star player, Emily Granruth, for a long session of film study after they defeated Highland for the Delaney Athletic Conference tournament championship Saturday. He pointed out some problems with her defense.
Granruth responded Wednesday with 11 steals, six blocks and eight rebounds to help the Owls beat Broadwater, 49-23, during the quarterfinals of the VISAA Division III state tournament at home in The Plains.
“That’s why everybody likes to coach her," Sipes said. "I’ve been ragging her about her defense. … She takes that stuff to heart – ‘I really need to work on that.’"
Granruth led a Wakefield defense that forced 38 turnovers and came up with 27 steals against Broadwater.
“He told me to contribute in more ways than scoring," Granruth said. "Obviously teams are starting to realize that I score a lot … so I’ve got to work on other parts of the game."
Naturally, Granruth also scored a game-high 22 points. She fell short of a triple-double by two rebounds, or by four blocks.
“Aw, shucks," Granruth said with a smile. "But as long as the team wins."
Wakefield all but locked up the victory before the end of the first quarter. The Owls took a 17-4 lead in the first en route to advancing to the state semifinals for the third consecutive season.
The No. 2-seeded Owls (24-6) will play No. 6 Tidewater in the semifinals Friday in The Plains. Wakefield is hosting the entire VISAA tournament – D-I, D-II and D-III – this season.
Tidewater upset No. 3 Roanoke Catholic, 47-40, in the quarterfinals Wednesday, so either Tidewater or Wakefield will play in the state final Saturday.
“As long as we’re playing together as a team, there’s no team that can stop us," Owls junior Alexis Smith. "I feel like we can win [a state championship]. I think we can get it."
Smith finished Wednesday with six steals, five points and three assists. She helped Wakefield's aggressive full-court, man-to-man defense accumulate 26 steals by halftime, leading to a 36-8 Owls' lead.
“When you get an opportunity, you better take it," Smith said of the steals. "And then finishing on them [with layups] was great. It was fun.
“When you get steals and play well as a team, the team-oriented enthusiasm is the best part," she said.
Wakefield had 10 steals and forced 13 turnovers in the first quarter alone, limiting Broadwater to only two field goal attempts in the opening 6 minutes, 22 seconds of the game.
“Once we get on a run like that and get steals we can see that we’re definitely in their heads," said Granruth, who had nine steals and 18 points in the first half. "Then we’re like, ‘We’ve got them.’ It’s a mental game."
The Owls held Broadwater's Kristen Lewis to four points in the first half and she finished with only 11.
“I always say, whoever we’re going to play, whoever their best kid is, [she's] going to meet Airielle Jenkins," Sipes said of the Owls' sophomore guard. "Airielle is going to make your life miserable. [Lewis] was not all that thrilled with meeting her, I don’t think."
Wakefield also held Katie Wendell to two second-half points.
“The scouting report was if you could contain those two … you’d be fine," Sipes said. "I think we decided when they were going to have [most] of their scoring."
Broadwater finished the game on a 9-0 run after Wakefield reduced its pressure in the second half and utilized much of its bench.
Despite the blowout victory, the Owls said they weren't worried about being untested heading into the state semifinals.
"We’ve played a lot of tough games already this year and they’ve come out ready to play," Sipes said.
“This is an opportunity to see what we need to work on," Smith said of the lopsided win Wednesday.
Rebounding, for example. Broadwater actually out-rebounded the Owls, 39-23.
"It'll be a rebounding practice tomorrow," Granruth said.
"We’ve got to box out," Smith said. "We can't have [a final four team] outrebound us and expect to win."
Kelly Mason had six rebounds, four steals and 10 points for Wakefield, while Jenkins had 12 points and three steals. Shelby Sipes also had three steals and two assists.
For Broadwater, Kathleen Kraft had six points, six rebounds and three steals, while Claire Rew had eight rebounds and Wendell had three steals.