MARIETTA — If Wheeler’s Region 2AAAAAAA opponents were not aware of the talent on its roster this season, then those teams may be in for a rude awakening.
Campbell found out first-hand Friday night as Wheeler opened region play with a 61-38 victory at Wildcat Arena.
Yazz Wazeerud-din and Jadah Waite each scored in double figures for Wheeler (6-1, 1-0). Wazeerud-din drained three 3-pointers and finished with 17 points, while Waite added three 3s and totaled 10 points.
Mary Hestad collected seven of her nine points in the second half, while Nissa Sam-Grant poured in seven second-half points. Nadia Barnes came off the bench and scored her six points all in the fourth quarter.
“I believe the region knew we’d be good this season anyway,” Wheeler coach Melanie Samuel said. “It’s for us to come out and keep it up and go hard every night. We’re not where we want to be yet, so there’s more work to do.”
Campbell (5-4, 0-1) played well early in the first period. The Lady Spartans turned turnovers into field goals and pressed the tempo, en route to a 6-5 lead following Jada Alson’s 3-pointer.
The rest of the game, however, belonged to Wheeler. Waite’s 3-pointer with roughly 3 minutes remaining in the period put the Lady Wildcats up 10-7 as they closed the period on a 10-1 run and led 15-7.
Back-to-back field goals from Jaleah Alston and Deerica Hamilton pulled Campbell within four, but Wazeerud-din’s two 3-pointers bookended a 13-2 spurt that left Wheeler leading 28-13 at halftime.
Jada Alston’s layup with 4:45 remaining was the Lady Spartans’ lone field goal over the final 7 minutes of the quarter.
“We played out-of-character and took shots that we didn’t need to take,” Campbell coach Randy McClure said. “It’s early in the season, so we’ll have to get back in the gym and get better.”
Wheeler’s lead grew to 39-17 almost midway through the third quarter following a layup from Waite. Three straight field goals from Jadyn Rice, Makayla Jones and Aynastee Frederick brought Campbell within 16, and Wazeerud-din’s layup with just over a minute remaining left the Lady Wildcats in front 48-32 entering the final quarter.
Wheeler kept attacking in the fourth quarter. Hestad’s 3-pointer and a putback from Barnes gave Wheeler a 56-32 advantage with 3:33 remaining.
Samuel emptied her bench for the final few minutes of the game, and the Lady Wildcats’ reserves managed to maintain a healthy margin of 20-plus points the rest of the way.
Wheeler made seven 3-pointers in the game and shot 10-for-20 from the free-throw line.
Waite scored 10 of her 15 points in the third quarter. Wazeerud-din had 11 in the first half.
“Our starting lineup can score and, at any point, somebody can get hot,” Samuel said. “We have players that can go hard to the basket, and that gives us a lot of opportunities to get 1-and-1s early. We have a strong post presence and some great shooters.”
Rice led Campbell with 15 points. Jada Alson had seven and Frederick scored all eight of her points in the second half. Jaleah Alson had five.
The Lady Spartans were 4-of-13 from the free-throw line, made only two 3-pointers and had only two fourth-quarter field goals.
“We’ll probably give a better effort the next time we see (Wheeler),” McClure said.