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Itawamba rolls past West Union with playoffs on the horizon

Feb. 1—FULTON — Itawamba AHS head coach Anna Porter wasn't thrilled with her team's first half against West Union on Thursday night, despite leading 32-17 at the half. She wanted to see a stronger defensive effort, so Itawamba went out in the second half and shut down the Eagles.

The Indians allowed just four points in the final two quarters combined and rolled to a 59-21 win. Kelsei Dilworth had a team-high 15 points in the win.

"We started out slow, and at halftime I let them know I was not happy with the defensive effort at all and we better pick it up," Porter said. "I kept up stat-wise with how many times we got beat off the dribble. They know they don't want that written down too much, so they went out there and picked it up second half obviously and pulled it out at the end."

It was an ugly start for both teams, but Itawamba (16-6) found its offensive groove in the second quarter. Itawamba scored 18 points in the second eight minutes, and a 14-5 run to start the period gave the Indians a comfortable 28-12 lead. But the Indians also gave up 10 points, the most they gave up in a quarter all night.

The second half was a different story, though. The Indians kept their foot on the gas pedal offensively while keeping West Union (16-9) off the scoreboard almost entirely. Itawamba found a way to force turnovers and turn them into easy run-outs at the other end.

"I said if you will buy in on the defensive end and work hard, steals and layups are what excite a team overall," Porter said. "It has taken a while, but they have finally bought in and decided, hey, I like playing defense. That's my motto, I love the defensive end of the court. They are buying into that, and it's paying off for us."

The one-sided loss might sting for West Union, but head coach J.C. Hayles wanted his team to be tested heading into the playoffs.

"That's why I wanted to schedule them," he said. "I knew that they were going to guard hard, be tough, be physical. Regardless of the outcome, at this stage, yes, you want to win, but you really want to prepare for what you've got coming up next week."

Three-Pointers

Turning Point: Itawamba came out of halftime flying and added onto an already comfortable 32-17 advantage. The Indians led 48-20 heading into the fourth.

Point Maker: Dilworth had a team-high 15 points for Itawamba, which had four players with nine or more points.

Talking Point: "I have seen the difference she makes attacking the rim, and when she attacks the rim, people start backing off of her to take away her drive. And she can also nail the three." — Porter, on Dilworth

brendan.farrell@djournal.com