High school sports: West Port survives P.K. Yonge's comeback bid, hangs on for 47-45 girls basketball victory

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In its regular-season finale, the P.K. Yonge Blue Wave girls’ basketball team hosted the West Port Wolf Pack — a team that, heading into the matchup, was streaking with back-to-back wins.

After a tightly contested first quarter, the Wolf Pack separated from the Blue Wave (7-5) with an offensive explosion in the second quarter, paving the way for West Port to improve to 10-8 on the season with a 47-45 win.

Prior to Wednesday night’s matchup, West Port was averaging 44.3 points per game, while P.K. Yonge was pacing 53.3 points per game.

However, stingy defense, paired with cold shooting made for an offensively slow first quarter.

The Blue Wave saw four of its starters score a bucket, but none scored more than once. Instead, P.K. Yonge’s bench led scoring efforts in the first quarter with a lone three ball from junior Kalawni Austin.

Meanwhile, it was much of the same for the Wolf Pack, which also didn’t see anyone score more than once in the first quarter.

Three of West Port’s starters put up points in the opening period, with Mileyka Rodriguez-Mercado leading with the lone three for the Wolf Pack.

The Blue Wave would end the second period with a narrow 10-7 advantage over West Port.

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West Port makes up for lack of scoring in second period

Though P.K. Yonge would score the opening points, the second quarter was all West Port.

Following the Blue Wave’s bucket, the Wolf Pack would generate a run of 17 unanswered points, helping the Wolf Pack to a 24-12 lead.

Much of West Port’s second-quarter success came from underneath the basket as freshman forward Saige McCloud had her way with the Blue Wave from the post spot.

West Port Wolf Pack guard Mileyka Rodriquez Mercado (0) dribbles the ball during the first half against the P.K. Yonge Blue Wave at P.K. Yonge Developmental Research School in Gainesville, Florida, on Wednesday, January 26, 2022.
West Port Wolf Pack guard Mileyka Rodriquez Mercado (0) dribbles the ball during the first half against the P.K. Yonge Blue Wave at P.K. Yonge Developmental Research School in Gainesville, Florida, on Wednesday, January 26, 2022.

“Our bigs played well for us,” said West Port head coach Corey Rollerson. “When we can get our bigs to play well for us, the whole team goes. We started getting the ball inside to the bigs and they started making some easy baskets for us.”

McCloud went on to lead the Wolf Pack’s scoring efforts with 10 points on the night. Meanwhile, Rodriguez-Mercado was hot on her heels and finished with nine points.

Following the Wolf Pack’s 17-point quarter, West Port went into the locker room with a 24-16 lead.

Energized by Chayse Williams, P.K. Yonge threatens comeback bid

During a timeout early in the third quarter, P.K. Yonge head coach Willie Powers pushed for his team to pick up the intensity on defense.

And on the very next defensive possession, P.K. Yonge senior guard Chayse Williams forced West Port to turn the ball over, inspiring the Blue Wave to be more aggressive on defense.

“They were really getting after it and pressuring the ball,” Rollerson said of the Blue Wave’s second-half defense.

While Williams scored nine of her 11 total points in the final period, Powers also noticed a lot of effort from another player. P.K. Yonge sophomore Summer Barnett, albeit not scoring a single point, acted as a catalyst for the Blue Wave, Powers said.

“I tell you, just watching Summer Barnett come in and give us those great minutes defensively, which nobody sees because everybody looks at points,” Powers said. “But Summer Barnett picked up the intensity defensively and it just trickled down to her teammates.”

P.K. Yonge Blue Wave guard Chayse Williams (5) drives to the basket during the first half against the West Port Wolf Pack at P.K. Yonge Developmental Research School in Gainesville, Florida, on  January 26, 2022.
P.K. Yonge Blue Wave guard Chayse Williams (5) drives to the basket during the first half against the West Port Wolf Pack at P.K. Yonge Developmental Research School in Gainesville, Florida, on January 26, 2022.

The Blue Wave went on to tie the game at 41 apiece with 2:15 to play in the game and later extend its lead out to three points with under a minute to play.

But successful trips to the foul line from Lake and McCloud would give the Wolf Pack the space it needed to polish off the win.

“We held on,” Rollerson said. “They made their run, but we were able to sustain it… that’s the thing.”

Looking ahead

West Port will host Lake Weir (9-8) on Friday night at 7 as the Wolf Pack looks to cap off its regular season with a win.

Meanwhile, the Blue Wave, after having three weeks off, will host the opening round of the 2-3A district tournament on Wednesday night, however, the opponent and tipoff time is to be determined.

This article originally appeared on The Gainesville Sun: Basketball: Wolf Pack polishes off Blue Wave in 47-45 thriller

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