HED:West Union girls break Stringer; will meet Walnut
By Todd Vinyard
JACKSON Two games into the season with their best player injured and pressure to live up to the success of the year before, West Union's girls were a long way from the Class 1A girls state high school basketball final.
Several months and wins later West Union will take on Walnut at the Mississippi Coliseum at 6:30 p.m. Saturday for the 1A girls title. West Union finished its march to the final with an impressive 76-58 drubbing of Stringer Thursday in the semifinals.
"After everything this year it feels great," said West Union Lady Eagle Jill Goolsby, the team's leading scorer who has had to fight back from an ACL injury to her right knee. "This team has worked hard and we deserved to be in the finals."
West Union worked hard Thursday afternoon, showing no signs of rust after an 11-day layoff by substituting in waves and finally playing 15 different people.
"We take a lot of pride in our press, and I don't think they have seen anything like that," said West Union coach Ken Basil, whose team improves to 33-3.
West Union scored on five turnovers while taking a 13-0 lead to start the contest. Stringer's Jackie Winfield ended the Red Devil dry spell with a bucket at the 2 minute, 54 second mark of the first quarter.
"We have not faced a defense like this," Stringer coach Sam McDonald said. "Even when we got the ball across mid-court we rushed shots and couldn't make them."
One team that has seen defense like West Union's is Walnut. The final will be the fifth time these two squads have met. West Union has won three times, while Walnut won once.
"Both these teams play hard when they meet and with what is at stake this time it should be even bigger," Basil said. "If you want to see a war, this should be it. The teams don't dislike each other. We just play hard against each other."
To get another shot at Walnut West Union had to rely on a balanced scoring attack. Since Goolsby's injury other players have had to contribute more.
"We knew everybody would have to step things up," junior starter Tana Kirk said. "Everyone has kind of matured as a team."
Kirk had 15 points and was one of four Lady Eagles in double figures.
West Union was able to do about all it could hope to against Stringer's Winfield, holding her to 23 points. Winfield keyed a few attempts to cut into West Union's lead. The Lady Eagles from Union County push their advantage to 17 points entering the fourth quarter and never looked back.
"She (Winfield) is a great player, that is for sure," Basil said. "What we tried was a triangle-and-two and put pressure on her whenever we could. I am just glad we don't have to see her again."
West Union 76, Stringer 58
Stringer 10 20 8 20 58
West Union 23 13 19 21 76
Stringer: Jackie Winfield 23, Shawn Duse 16.
West Union: Jill Goolsby 17, Crystal Young 16, Tana Kirk 15, Tasha Kitchens 12.
Records: Stringer 25-4, West Union 33-3.
Notes: Tana Kirk and Tasha Kitchens led West Union in rebounds with seven each.