The top spot in the Frontier Athletic Conference was on the line Saturday as the first round of conference play came to an end when the Miami Trace Lady Panthers hosted the Washington Lady Blue Lions.
Miami Trace entered the game 7-1 overall, 4-0 in the FAC.
Washington came into the contest with a record of 7-0 overall, 4-0 in the FAC.
A very large crowd turned out on the Saturday before Christmas for what in all likelihood was the final game between these two teams in the historic, old gymnasium which dates back to the New Frontier, Camelot era of the early 1960s.
Both teams played a very hard-fought game.
However, in the end, the Panthers emerged with a 53-41 victory.
Senior Tanner Bryant was the game’s leading scorer with 26 points. She also had six rebounds and connected on four of Miami Trace’s six three-point field goals.
Senior Victoria Fliehman scored 16 points. She led her team with 12 rebounds, including five offensive.
Junior Cassidy Lovett had seven points and led the Lady Panthers with three assists.
Sophomore Shay McDonald scored four points for Miami Trace.
For Washington, junior Hannah Haithcock scored 18 points and sophomore Rayana Burns scored 17 points. Haithcock had a double-double night with 12 rebounds and Burns did as well, with 11 rebounds.
Three other players, juniors Tabby Woods and Kassidy Hines and sophomore Shawna Conger, each scored two points.
“Washington Court House came in ranked No. 14 in one of the polls,” Miami Trace head coach Ben Ackley said. “They were undefeated and they beat Bishop Hartley, so we knew it wasn’t going to be easy.
“They were playing with a ton of confidence,” Ackley said. “They are well-coached. They do things the right way and they’re only going to get better because they are extremely young.
“Hats off to our kids,” Ackley said. “We got ourselves into a position where we had a nice cushion there. It seems like we always struggle when we get up 14 or 15 points. We begin scoreboard watching, then a team makes a couple of baskets.
“I thought we got a little tight when Burns banked in the three,” Ackley said. “Then Tanner banked in a three and things were a little better. We missed a couple of layups, but they missed some easy shots, too.
“Anytime you play your cross town rival and they come in undefeated, it’s not going to be easy,” Ackley said. “This is our tough stretch of the season, as far as playing three really quality teams (Hathaway Brown, Ross Southeastern and Washington) in four days and we escaped.
“Great players make big plays and I thought Tanner and Vic both came to play,” Ackley said. “They showed the quality players and the leaders that they are.
“Sam Leach and coach (Mychal) Turner and Corey Dye have done a great job,” Ackley said, referring to Washington’s coaching staff. “But I couldn’t be more proud of our kids. What an atmosphere this is. This is the first time I can remember the girls game coming in with this much hype. It’s a lot more about the talent that both teams have than it is about the coaches.
“There are a lot of kids who play their whole lives and never get to play in an atmosphere like this,” Ackley said.
“It’s nice to see everyone come out and support these athletes,” Washington head coach Samantha Leach said. “They put so much time and commitment into the game.
“I was very proud of the start that we had,” Leach said. “We didn’t click offensively. We were getting shots, but just not converting.
“Defensively, I was proud of the effort in the first quarter,” Leach said. “In the second quarter, we just let up. We had too many breakdowns.
“My girls never gave up,” Leach said. “We got down by 21 at one point and we talked about trying to cut the lead to 10. The girls just kept fighting and fighting and we got to within five. We had a great opportunity at a three to cut it to two. That’s just something about our team —no matter what the score is or how much time is on the clock — they won’t give up — they’ll play until the buzzer.
“We appreciate the crowd,” Leach said. “This was a great opportunity for our kids to play in front of a fun atmosphere. It’s very loud and it makes for an exciting game.”
The first nearly three minutes of the game was an unsettled time for both teams, either missing a shot or turning the ball over on their first eight combined possessions.
Fliehman got the scoring started with a three-point shot with 5:10 to play in the first quarter.
Burns countered with a free throw and Fliehman sank a pair from the line for a 5-1 Miami Trace lead.
Haithcock hit a free throw and Woods’ basket pulled Washington to within one at 5-4.
Then it was Fliehman again, followed by a free throw from Bryant and then Burns and Bryant traded baskets to put the score at 10-6, Miami Trace after one quarter of action.
One of the differences in the game was the second quarter.
Miami Trace outscored Washington, 18-7 in this frame to take a 28-13 halftime lead. Bryant sent her team off to the locker room with a three-point goal at the buzzer.
During the halftime intermission, Miami Trace recognized many former Lady Panther players, from the 1970s all the way up until 2017.
There will be several more such recognition ceremonies throughout the remainder of the season as Miami Trace says farewell to its current high school and the Panther Pit as a new high school rises in a field adjacent to the current facility.
In the second half, Washington won the third quarter, 15-14 and then the fourth quarter, 13-11.
However, the 15 point halftime lead was too much for Washington to overcome.
Miami Trace led by as many as 21 points (37-16) with just over four minutes to play in the third quarter.
It was 42-28 Panthers after three complete.
Washington would not fade away under the weight of the deficit.
With back-to-back treys (one each from Haithcock and Burns), the Lady Lions pulled to within five points at 42-37 with 3:52 to play in the game.
Washington had the ball and a chance to cut the margin to three, or even two points, but the shot from the field and a subsequent free throw, would not fall.
Fleihman got the rebound and scored two, followed by two free throws from Burns with 2:36 left to play, making the score 44-39, Miami Trace.
Bryant scored five more and Lovett scored two, while Haithcock hit Washington’s final basket to put the end result at 53-41, Lady Panthers.
Washington is at Lynchburg-Clay Thursday night with the j-v game first at 5:30 p.m.
Miami Trace will be playing in the McDonald’s Holiday Tournament at Greeneview High School Wednesday and Friday.
On Wednesday, Miami Trace will play Madison Plains at 6:30 p.m. and then London will take on Greeneview at 8 p.m.
Then, on Friday, the consolation game is set for 6:30 p.m. and the championship game is at 8 p.m. There will be an all-tournament team announced immediately after the championship game Friday.
SCORE BY QUARTERS
MT 10 18 14 11 — 53
W 6 7 15 13 — 41
MIAMI TRACE — Olivia Wolffe 0-0-0; Cassidy Lovett 1-5-7; Shay McDonald 0 (1)-1-4; Olivia Fliehman 0-0-0; Victoria Fliehman 5 (1)-3-16; Tanner Bryant 4 (4)-6-26; Morgan Miller 0-0-0. TOTALS — 10 (6)-15-53. Free throw shooting: 15 of 19 for 79 percent. Three-point field goals: Bryant, 4; McDonald, V. Fliehman. Combined field goal shooting: 16 of 40 for 40 percent. Three-point field goal shooting: 6 of 14 for 43 percent. Rebounds: 28 (9 offensive). Turnovers: 11. Assists: 12. Steals: 8. Personal fouls: 12.
WASHINGTON — Rayana Burns 2 (3)-4-17; Maddy Garrison 0-0-0; Bre Taylor 0-0-0; Kassidy Hines 1-0-2; Tabby Woods 1-0-2; Shawna Conger 1-0-2; Hannah Haithcock 3 (2)-6-18. TOTALS — 8 (5)-10-41. Free throw shooting: 10 of 17 for 59 percent. Three-point field goals: Burns, 3; Haithcock, 2. Personal fouls: 16. Turnovers: 18. Offensive rebounds: 8. Combined field goal shooting: 13 of 36 for 36 percent. Three-point field goal shooting: 5 of 16 for 31 percent.