George Whaley scored quickly, Williamsport played fast and a new defense slowed Coatesville. Put it all together and the Millionaires put on quite a performance Saturday at the Magic Dome.
Whaley came off the bench and scored a career-high 19 points in under 11 minutes. Williamsport’s zone defense also rocked Coatesville all night as the Millionaires led from start to finish and won 54-38. Williamsport went unbeaten at home and, minus a difficult second quarter, played one of their best games this season. The Millionaires (8-3) traditionally play man-to-man defense, but when they zone all the way and never let Coatesville set a pace.
Whaley had never been so paced, making 7 of 11 shots and excelling at both ends while giving Williamsport a big boost at both ends.
“Once I hit my first shot, everything just kept falling” said Whaley. “Everything was clicking.”
Whaley has started a few games this season, but his versatility gives coach Allen Taylor a nice option off the bench. That value was brought home against Coatesville and Whaley began to change the complexion of the game, scoring five quick points late in the second quarter after the Raiders cut a 13-point deficit to four. Whaley drained a 3-pointer before scoring in transition and Williamsport went up, 24-17 at halftime.
Whaley picked up where he left off in the third quarter, scoring eight points. He added six more in the fourth and scored 19 of Williamsport’s 32 points in a game-breaking 10 minutes and 45 seconds. After Xavier Taylor (four assists) found Whaley for his final field goal, the Millionaires led 49-26 two minutes into the fourth quarter.
“During the summer I was playing in the AAU and playing against 18-year-olds. I was used to it when we started the season, so it helped me. said Whaley. “We started picking it up towards the end of the second quarter and then once the second half started we kept going.”
His ability to play at both guard positions provides Williamsport with a luxury and Whaley was as powerful in the half-court offense as he was in transition, blowing frequently and rounding defenders at the basket. The junior has become a weapon in his first extended college campaign and is turning a productive offseason into a breakout campaign.
“He is our Manu Ginobili. He could very easily start for us, but I like getting him off the bench because it gives us attack and defense coming off the bench. Taylor said. “It’s good to have an offensive punch coming off the bench with George. He plays very cool, very quiet and you can’t really speed him up. He is even bowling all the time. The more experience we can give him, the better off we are. He played a whale game.
His teammates too, especially defensively.
Williamsport have played in the zone a few times this season, but never for long stretches, let alone an entire game. The Millionaires also didn’t have much time to work the zone in training, but they certainly looked like veterans in the way they executed it. Williamsport frequently kept Coatesville out of the paint and forced perimeter play.
The Raiders were often content with 3-point attempts throughout the first quarter and Williamsport surged, taking a 17-4 lead. Even when the Milonaires’ offense stalled and went scoreless for six minutes in the second quarter, the efficient defense kept them ahead. Once the attack died down in the second half, Williamsport landed the knockout blow.
“It’s a positive point. It gives me hope,” Taylor said. “It’s something we can build on and hopefully improve on, and if we have to use it again, we can do it. When you have that kind of length, it’s good to to be able to get everything out at the same time.
Defensive mainstay Elijah Frierson, JJ Beagle, Jakiha Kline and Caleb Fausnaught did a great job protecting the rim. Brown, Whaley, Xavier Taylor and Nayim Connelly-Ali were all ball handlers and the zone drew life from a power attack as the game progressed. The Millionaires led by 24 points midway through the fourth quarter and Coatesville only reached 30 points in the final minutes.
Williamsport never gave up on anything easy and Frierson symbolized team effort, frequently sprinting backwards and breaking what looked like safe lay-ups. The senior became one of the best defenders in the region and made a huge impact, while scoring nine points and adding four rebounds.
“Elijah has phenomenal defensive plays on the second effort. His effort has been enormous.” Taylor said. “He played a whale of a game for us defensively. When he’s in that mode, just as a service man, we play on a different level.
Brown played another solid game and controlled the offense effectively while making several big defensive plays. The leading point guard scored nine points, made three steals, dished out three assists and added three rebounds. Beagle was tough when he had the ball low and gave Coatesville defensive adjustments, scoring nine points, grabbing six rebounds and blocking five shots.
Williamssport also turned the ball over just four times in the second half, executing their offense well, working for good shots and showing marked improvement after their loss last Wednesday at Dallas. Every player contributed and the millionaires took another step forward.
“We just wanted to run the clock a bit and slow the game down,” said Whaley. “When teams watch a movie, they can’t talk about just one player. We can all score.”
Williamsport don’t have time to savor this win as they have another tough game tonight when they host Harrisburg.
“One thing you can count on is when Coach (Kirk) Smallwood’s boys come in, you better be ready for a fight because his boys are going to compete from jump to finish.” Taylor said. “His boys are always going to give your heart and effort so we have to be ready to go out there and do the same thing we did tonight and be ready to play.”
Jaylin McNeil 1 0-0 2, Jeremiah Marshall 3 1-2 8, Dior Kennedy 6 1-1 13, James Taylor 2 0-0 5, TJ Scott 1 0-0 2, Jaden Gallimore 1 0-0 2, Devin Hunt 2 0-0 4, Marcus Evans 1 0-0 2. Totals 17 2-3 38.
Kenon Brown 4 1-1 9, JJ Beagle 4 1-3 9, Elijah Frierson 4 1-2 9, George Whaley 7 4-4 19, Nayim Connelly-Ali 2 0-0 4, Xavier Taylor 0 0-2 0, Jakhi Kline 2 0-0 4, Caleb Fausnaught 0 0-0 0. Totals 23 7-12 54.
Coatesville 4 13 6 15 — 38
Williamssport 17 7 17 13 — 54
3-point goals: Coatesville 2 (Marshall, Taylor); Williamsport 1 (Whaley).
Honors: Coatesville (8-5), Williamsport (7-4).