By Josh Shreckengost
West Shamokin senior guard Sophie Fusaro (34) spins through the lane and drops in two of her game-high 25 points in the Wolves' 63-27 win over Highlands on Friday night. Fusaro is averaging just under 26 points per game during West Shamokin's 4-0 start to the 2021 season.
Rural Valley, Pa. — Ever since West Shamokin senior guard Sophie Fusaro opened the 2021 season with a 36-point onslaught against Burrell in the season opener, she and the Wolves have been flying on the offensive end of the court.
After beating the Bucs by 22 (68-46), West Shamokin cracked the 60-point plateau against Blairsville (61-57) and Saltsburg (65-30). In those three games, Fusaro averaged 26 points and the Wolves were 3-0 to begin the year.
It was more of the same Friday night as West Shamokin played its second WPIAL opponent of the season in the form of the visiting Highlands Golden Rams. Just has they had done in their previous three games, the Wolves put up 60-plus in a convincing victory over and Fusaro led all scorers with 25 points in the contest.
Despite raising its season record to 4-0, West Shamokin struggled from the field in the first half. While the Wolves led, 26-10 at the break, West Shamokin head coach Frank Nagy preached to his team to finish their looks in the second half, which they did in bunches to the tune of a 24-point outburst in the third quarter.
"Honestly, I was happy with what we were getting in the first half, but we were finishing weak in the paint," Nagy said. "We weren't going really strong and I felt like we were getting moved away from the basket. Shooting-wise, we were open. I thought we were getting good looks and we couldn't buy a bucket and that's going to happen. But we're a good shooting team. I think we'll shoot more three-pointers this year than any team I've coached here. I do feel that we have some really good shooters and you're going to have those streaks where you're not going to knock them down, but if they're good shots, we're ok with it."
The third quarter provided a glimpse at just how good the Wolves can be from long distance. Both Fusaro and fellow senior Lydia McIlwain were deadly from deep as they cashed in three after three to extend the Wolves' lead from 16 at the break to 34 by the end of the third quarter, 50-16.
Another area of strength for the Wolves against the Golden Rams was West Shamokin's decisive advantage in the rebounding department. Freshman Lily Jordan again put up big rebounding numbers again as she hauled in a game-high 15 boards. Jordan came into the game averaging 14.3 points per game and 12.3 rebounds per game and just missed her fourth straight double-double as she scored eight points against Highlands. Sophomore forward Melissa Spohn also registered double digit rebounds with 11 boards against the Golden Rams.
"That's been a big strength for us this year and I wasn't necessarily sure that it would be coming into the season, but the girls take a lot of pride in rebounding," Nagy said. "We don't want to be getting a lot of offensive rebounds because that means we're missing shots, but the girls are in good position and when that ball goes up, they attack it. Offensively, they're moving to the ball and jumping and they really do a nice job of getting those second chances and defensively, it's positioning and not allowing second chances."
Aside from a close game against Blairsville, the Wolves have had three blowout victories early on this season, but West Shamokin will face its toughest test of the young season when it travels to undefeated Homer-Center on Monday for a key Heritage Conference showdown.
"I think we've been steadily improving throughout the season and I expect that to continue, but from everything I've seen here early on, Homer is the team to beat," Nagy said. "I didn't expect anyone to go into United and win and Homer did that first thing so they've established themselves as the team to beat. Going on the road to play there is always tough and we know we're going to be in for a battle."
To watch a complete re-broadcast of West Shamokin's 63-27 win over Highlands, click the link below: