Three different players teamed up to drain six 3-pointers as Willard shook off a sluggish first quarter to cruise to a 58-34 win over Stockton.
“We haven’t had a quarter like that in a while. Not at all,” said Willard senior Amber Percival. “It might be one and a half of us, but never three of us. We just try to find the hot person.”
Willard connected on just one field goal in the game’s first 4:45 to allow Stockton to race ahead 9-3. It was an 11-7 lead for the visitors early in the second quarter before Willard caught the 3-point bug.
It all started with Makenzie Parker, who knocked one down from the left corner. Amber Percival later connected on back-to-back triples before Samantha Whitman, Percival and Parker all hit 3s in a 71 second span late in the period.
Parker’s shot - again from the left corner - capped a 9-2 run for Willard and sent them into the halftime break with a 33-23 lead.
“We started being a little more patient, working some inside out, and making the defense move a little bit,” said Mike Percival. “We got some good looks out of it. We haven’t been hitting a lot of those, but tonight we hit quite a few.”
That run seemed to sap Stockton, as they connected on just three field goals in the second half - the last one coming with 44 seconds to play in the fourth quarter.
“We missed too many crib shots early. We should‘ve had a nice lead to start with,” said Stockton coach Kevin Burns. “Then we gave up too many 3s. Once they got momentum, that 26-point quarter just killed us.”
Sophomore post Jolene Shipps scored 14 to pace Stockton (0-2). Fellow sophomore Sydnee Garrett and freshman Taylor Ewing chipped in 6 each.
“We‘re still figuring out how to gel together,” said Burns. “We switched to a freshman point guard, and Taylor’s doing a good job for us, but she’s learning all the time. We’ve got to get our inside game established. We played well inside at times, but we didn’t finish in the paint. We’ve got to play a little better as a team.”
Amber Percival led all scorers with 16 points, while Parker added 13. Ali Perry just missed double figures, ending the night with 9 points.
Percival is the lone senior on the Willard roster. She’s joined by four juniors and seven sophomores. That sophomore class accounted for 35 points against Stockton.
“It’s a learning process,” said Mike Percival. “They’re teenagers. They handle things differently, and we see it every day. They’re doing well. It’s going to be a roller coaster at times, but that’s a part of growing up.”
The Lady Tigers are off to a 3-3 start. Not bad, but it stands to get better as the youngsters mature under the leadership of their lone senior.
“It’s really hard sometimes, but it‘s just something I‘ve got to get used to. I‘ve got to be a leader,” said Amber Percival. “I used to be a ‘show them’ leader, but now I tell. Show and tell, I guess. I think we’re already better than we were at the first of the season. We’re getting there.”