YATES CENTER — The Wildcats girls basketball team had two wins entering Tuesday’s home game against Pleasanton, but with both those victories coming against a win-less Altoona-Midway squad, Yates Center was still looking for a victory to announce their arrival into the Three Rivers League — they switched from the Tri-Valley League this year.
On Tuesday, they found that win in a 45-37 victory over the BluJays.
“We needed that win in the Three Rivers to let everybody know that we can play a little basketball,” Yates Center first-year coach Dallas Scothorn said. “We have been playing competition over our heads with playing bigger schools so it was nice to play someone that was our size.”
The Wildcats have had their fair share of growing pains this season with Scothorn taking over the reigns of an incredibly young squad.
“It was really important for us to come out and get a league win, because we have been having a little bit of a rough season,” Yates Center sophomore forward Allie Pringle said. “We really were aggressive out there.”
With Scothorn at the helm, the Wildcats have been steadily improving this season and that improvement culminated against the previously 5-5 Jays.
“Our young ones are starting to figure some things out,” Scothorn said. “Our goal tonight was to cut down on some of the turnovers we’ve been making almost 30 turnovers a game, but we’ve been pushing the ball a lot, so that its partly on me. I want them to learn to push the ball.”
Yates Center jumped on Pleasanton early with a lot of the damage coming from the Wildcats’ talented freshmen class.
Freshman point guard Jaylee Catron opened the game with a steal and a layup to instantly give her team the momentum. The Wildcats carried that swagger to a 16-6 in the early stages of the second quarter with the freshman trio of Catron, Maddie Collins and Taylor Jacobs accounting for 14 of those Yates Center points.
“Our freshman guards, Maddie and Jaylee, are really important this year and I am really glad we’ve added them,” Pringle said. “Jaylee has made huge strides and shown a lot of improvement. This is probably one of her best games of the season. She handled the ball and was aggressive. I couldn’t have asked for anything else out of her.”
The Wildcats carried a 22-16 into the second half and off of back-to-back buckets from Jacobs and sophomore Jordan Weseloh, the Wildcats built the lead back up to 10 points.
Early in the third period, the Jays were to get the margin down to five points — matching the closest they had been since the opening minutes of the game — and it was the Yates Center veterans who stepped to the forefront and refused to allow the team to lose.
Junior Melanie Hegwald and Katelynn Jones had back-to-back baskets to extend the lead back to nine.
After a Pleasanton score, Hegwald answered right back. Then another Jay basket, but two Collins’ free throws made sure the threat was neutralized.
After the Collins foul shots, Pringle sealed the game with a short jumper, followed by a free throw to push the lead to 43-31.
“I came out in the second half and knew that I needed to start taking it to the rim,” Pringle said. “I decided that I am going to take it in and be aggressive like I should instead of being timid.”
Pleasanton tried to mount a late rally, but Pringle added two more foul shots and Yates Center wrapped up the 45-37 victory on its home court.
In addition to came up huge in the fourth quarter, Pringle dominated her individual match-up with Pleasanton junior Zoe Marshall — who entered the game averaging over 18 points-per-game.
“We were sticking every kind of defense we knew on (Marshall), she was a good player,” Scothorn said. “We did whatever we could do to slow her down. Allie did a good job, even though she got in foul trouble.”
The Jays’ star was held to just seven points and committed several turnovers, while Pringle led the Wildcats with 10 points and was a force in the paint with several big blocked shots.
“I had some kind of stupid fouls, but I tried to just stay stationary, move my feet instead of my hands and do my best,” Pringle said.
Catron also had a good game as the freshman limited her turnovers and was able to score nine points including a big three pointer in the third quarter when Pleasanton was trying to claw back into the contest.
Collins added eight points for the Wildcats and Hegwald, Jacobs, Jones and Weseloh each had four points.
With this win, Scothorn believes his team can begin to build some momentum in league play after making it through a gauntlet of an early-season slate.
“We set our goals this season knowing that our first half of the season was going to be a rough part of the season,” Scothorn said. “We knew that we were playing several ranked schools and 3A schools. We were ready to get into the Three Rivers.”
On Friday, the Wildcats will host another Three Rivers opens as Marmaton Valley comes to town.
“We needed to get out of our rut and get into Three Rivers league-play,” Pringle said. “I can’t wait to see what comes next.”
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