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Caleb Turrentine / The Herald Wetumpka’s Amber Dye lines up a 3-point shot against Stanhope Elmore.

After the Wetumpka girls basketball team lost to Stanhope Elmore in the county tournament last month, the team took two weeks off from games and turned its focus to itself to prepare for Class 6A Area 5 play. Despite the time off, Wetumpka had no signs of being sluggish as it jumped out to a big lead Saturday night, having its highest scoring half of the season before running away with a 63-29 win over the Mustangs.

“The biggest difference this time was we were focused,” Wetumpka coach Jermel Bell said. “We played the kind of basketball we should have been playing the whole year. This is the best I have seen us play since I have been here. Our girls came to play (Saturday).”

Wetumpka (3-6, 1-0) made things look easy on offense in the first half, making five 3-pointers. Amber Dye knocked down three of them and assisted on another to help the hosts claim a 40-17 advantage at the break.

Janae McCall, Wetumpka’s leading scorer, scored all eight of her points in the first half but she took a backseat for most of the game as her teammates got in on the action. Seven players scored at least five points and Wetumpka totaled 14 assists.

“The kids had more confidence,” Bell said. “You could tell they were believing in themselves. We have always had the ability to shoot but they just have not been falling. When you put that confidence in them, the shots start falling.”

Dye made one more 3-pointer in the second half and she led all players with 14 points. Morgan Causey was a force in the paint and stuffed the stat sheet, recording five points, nine rebounds, three blocks, three assists and two steals.

“I challenged my upperclassmen over the break to give us more production,” Bell said. “We have needed that the whole year. And anytime you have those seniors leading the team, you’re going to have success.”

Stanhope Elmore (4-4, 0-1) had no answer for Wetumpka’s offense as the Mustangs scored only two 3-pointers, one of which was a half-court heave by Brooke Burkett at the final buzzer. The Mustangs struggled offensively and it carried over the free-throw line where they made just 7 of 19 attempts.

“We had a bad shooting night but at this point in the season, you have to see the ball go in,” Stanhope coach Kelvin Stokes said. “We’re not a jump shooting team so when we get behind like that, it’s tough to get back. To win games, you have to make layups and free throws and we didn’t do that.”

Stokes said his team came out very flat and without enough intensity but he did not believe it was because of the two-week break between games. Stanhope played a zone defense in the first half but Stokes was forced to switch strategies because his players could not close out quick enough.

“You just have to stay in front of them and contest shots,” Stokes said. “They were making wide open shots so you have to give ourselves a chance. Credit to Wetumpka though because they came out prepared tonight.”

With Wetumpka taking the early lead in the area standings, the Mustangs will have to win the rematch in two weeks to have a chance at hosting the area tournament. Bell said he was happy with the way his team played Saturday but now the trick is to make sure it carries over to the rest of area play.

“When you’re at home, your shots are supposed to fall,” Bell said. “The biggest thing now will be to see if they fall again when we go to Stanhope in two weeks.”

Caleb Turrentine is a sports writer for Tallapoosa Publishers Inc.