Alexus Dye led her team in points, rebounds and what proved to be most important on Wednesday in a game that needed it — toughness.
Slotted as a showcase at the Pete Hanna Center during the Steel City Invitational, the two elite girls teams met in“Battle of Lakeshore,” as Wenonah girls basketball coach Emanuel Bell termed the Dragons versus Homewood.
Bodies banged and players clawed, but thanks to a run made to end the opening half, the Dragons handed Homewood its first loss this year. Wenonah grabbed the 74-70 victory.
“That was the best matchup since our season (started),” Dye said postgame. “We are always excited to win and it’s exciting because we put in work.”
Trailing 25-23 in the second quarter, Wenonah (10-1) needed a spark. Among a host of others like sophomore center Thaniya Marks, who finished with 10 points and 10 rebounds on the night, Dye scored a layup that sparked a 9-0 run.
The Dragons led 32-25 at halftime. Dye, who turned in 21 points and grabbed nine rebounds, had 12 points on 6-of-8 shooting after halftime. Homewood (12-1) committed 26 turnovers, including 14 in the first half and eight in the first quarter.
The Patriots only trailed by a point at the end of the opening stanza thanks to junior guards Hannah Barber and Ajah Wayne, who finished with 14 and 13, respectively. Even then, the shooting struggles that plagued the Patriots throughout were apparent.
What did Bell attribute the Homewood’s offensive struggles to?
“Our defense,” Bell said. “Defense wins games.”
Early in the third quarter, Homewood cut the Wenonah lead to five. More turnovers ensued, though, which allowed Wenonah to again separate. With 3:49 remaining in the third, the Dragons scored two straight layups off turnovers and led by 13.
The game was all but wrapped up, and Homewood coach Kevin Tubbs took a positive from his team’s fight until the end.
“Wenonah is a very good team. They’re kind of the pinnacle for girls basketball around here, and we just wanted to come out here and compete,” Tubbs said, and then compared it to last year’s state championship-game loss to LeFlore. “I didn’t see us quit today, so I’m going to take that as a positive.”
“The girls are tired and I think we need three or four days away from each other to reset and be ready for our tournament in Decatur.”
For Bell and Wenonah, another win puts the stamp of approval on his team’s ability to persevere.
“When you’re ranked in the nation and No. 1 in the state, people want to beat you,” Bell said. “When people come at you and you win, you’ve got to feel good about your girls.”