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Girls find some wins

The Whitehall girls basketball team has been pumping out victories recently, and that steady progress has been defined by a belief that they can be a pretty good team.

Head coach Will Robertson said that the seed was first planted in their loss to Emmaus on Jan. 30. They were playing a league rival, and got off to a strong start, taking a 16-13 lead into intermission. But they faltered in the second half, eventually losing by five points, 26-21.

“We kind of felt we didn’t reach our potential,” said Robertson.

However, they learned that if they just made a couple of more buckets, and converted their opportunities when presented, they could win these tight games. That lesson served as the impetus as they found something positive on which to build.

“They had that spark of hope; we can do this,” said Robertson.

That hope was further enhanced by another close contest a couple of games later in their rematch with Allentown Central Catholic. The Vikettes had won the first game 43-21, but the Zephs rebounded with a strong effort in the rematch. They had the lead at halftime thanks to a big second quarter where they dropped in 13 points.

The Vikettes made a second half run, but the Zephyrs hung around and stayed within striking distance, eventually succumbing, 44-38.

He said that the girls wanted to go out and redeem themselves, and they felt they accomplished that feat by staying competitive throughout the contest.

“There was excitement after that game,” said Robertson.

He said that once they realized that they could compete, they began a stretch of games that resulted in three consecutive victories.

“That kick-started everything and got us on a roll,” Robertson said.

Included in that stretch which began with a thrilling, 49-46 overtire win against William Allen, and a win against the Emmaus, avenging their earlier loss to the Green Hornets. They defeated the Hornets 45-27, and that belief that began in their first encounter was beginning to bear fruit.

That streak was halted by Pine Grove on Saturday as the Cardinals defeated the Zephs 35-31.

Still, they showed resolve again, erasing an early 10-point deficit to climb within four. Robertson believed that they could have eventually climbed all the way back, but they just ran out of time.

He said that Pine Grove is a good team, and they were coming off a win against Palisades the night before, and it seemed to take them a while before they got their legs back under them. While he didn’t want to take away from the Cardinals’ performance, he said that they were playing their fifth game in six days and their legs were a little heavy.

Despite being tired, he said that they didn’t quit. They kept chipping away, putting up 18 points in the second half.

“They pulled together as a team, and played hard,” said Robertson. “We just dug ourselves a huge hole and couldn’t get over that hump at the end.”

He said he was proud of the fact that they picked themselves up and got back into the game.

With that loss, their record now stands at 4-6 on the year.

Robertson said that he’s been leaning heavily on five players this season. That group of Meghan Hutter, Ella Laky, Bella Fonzone, Olivia Hines and Joey Shaul have been instrumental in getting things turned around for the Zephs.

One player who’s elevated her game is Hines. Robertson said that she’s switched gears, and is playing the best basketball of her career. He summed up Hines’ play by noting her attitude on the court.

“She’s playing determined,” said Robertson.

She’s scored 12 points in each of their last four games, and is combining that offensive output with strong work on the glass. Robertson said that she’s getting rebounds and is getting to the rim.

He said that’s it’s fun for a coach to watch a player develop that way.

Robertson also said that Laky has been fantastic, while Hutter, a player he deems their defensive specialist, consistently impresses. She always draws the opponents best player and puts in a great effort.

Robertson also said that a backcourt change in their second game against ACC, also provided a stark that got them rolling. Fonzone took over at the No. 1 spot, freeing Laky to work more off the ball. He said it’s a luxury to have two guards who can handle the ball, especially when teams pressure them, and it just seemed like the right time to allow Fonzone to run the offense.

He said it had the effect of calming them down as both players “took to it.” He said that they’re always looking for little changes to help them get that edge, and it just worked out.

As they head into the second half of their season, the excitement is building knowing that they’ll be playing in the district tournament. It’s an open tourney this year, and his team is excited to compete to see where they fall.

It’s all a part of a theme he’s been reinforcing since he took over the reins.

“Let’s compete this year,” said Robertson about their mindset heading into the season.

Along the way, he said they’ll identify the things they need to get better and improve.

Press photo by Linda Rothrock Olivia Hines and the Whitehall girls picked up some victories recently.