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Caleb Turrentine / The Herald Wetumpka’s Janae McCall attempts to drive past Prattville Christian’s Ella Jane Connell (2).

The Wetumpka girls basketball team seemed to be ready to compete after the first four minutes of game time during Friday’s trip to Prattville Christian. Wetumpka jumped out to a three-point lead but the Panthers responded in a big way, putting together a big run over the next 11-plus minutes to take a commanding lead before finishing off the 58-28 victory.

Wetumpka (1-1) made three of its first five shot attempts but struggled to find any sort of rhythm on offense for the rest of the night. PCA switched into a 1-3-1 half-court defense midway through the opening quarter and limited the Indians to 17 percent shooting after the hot start.

“When they switched, some of my girls were not dissecting it the way we should have,” Wetumpka coach Jermel Bell said. “It caused some confusion. We just weren’t prepared for it so it was a good switch up by the coach. It forced some bad shots and some bad turnovers. We were rushing it.”

Wetumpka finished with 12 turnovers in the first half and the Panthers capitalized to take a 30-12 lead into the break. Janae McCall scored five of Wetumpka’s first seven points but she was held scoreless for the rest of the first half.

McCall, who finished with a team-high nine points, became the focal point of Wetumpka’s offense as regular starting point guard Cederia Dennis was limited due to back issues, according to Bell. McCall also led the Indians with five steals and three assists but she was forced into five turnovers by the Panthers defense.

“We know what she can do but normally we like her off the ball so she can have a little bit more energy,” Bell said. “When you have to put her on the ball pretty much the entire game, it kind of wears them out. She still played really well (Friday night).”

Wetumpka found little production from its shooters as McCall hit one of the team’s two 3-pointers in the game. The other came from Morgan Causey, who finished with six points and 10 rebounds, on a long shot just before the first half buzzer. Wetumpka finished 2-for-13 from beyond the arc.

“We just have to tell them if the shot isn’t falling, try to attack the basket — get to the free throw line and see the ball go in a couple of times.,” Bell said. “Sometimes that can be hard as a jump shooter but some nights you’re going to have off nights and (Friday) was one for us.”

Wetumpka made some adjustments at the half and came out with more confidence, outscoring PCA 11-10 in the third quarter. 

“We needed to hit the open areas of the zone defense,” Bell said. “We came out and hit a few buckets against those weak spots. We weren’t turning the ball over and got up some good shots.”

After playing its first two games on back-to-back nights, Wetumpka will take a week off before resuming play in December. Bell said that will give the team time to work on the things it needs to improve to prepare for the bigger games at the end of the year.

“Basketball is a long season,” Bell said. “Early in the year, you want to evaluate what we have to work on and what we’re going to drill at. We play good in spurts right now but we just have to focus on playing four quarters of basketball.” 

Caleb Turrentine is a sports writer for Tallapoosa Publishers Inc.