FRANKFORT — The Miami Trace Lady Panthers had a strong challenge from the Circleville Lady Tigers in the Sectional championship game at Adena High School Saturday afternoon.
After a close first half, the Lady Panthers were able to separate themselves from the Lady Tigers and go on to post a 40-29 victory.
Miami Trace, now 21-3 on the season, will play Sheridan in the District semifinals Thursday at 8 p.m. at Southeastern High School.
Miami Trace was led by senior Tanner Bryant, the game’s high-scorer, with 13 points. She also had eight rebounds.
Junior Cassidy Lovett had a double-double with 11 points and 11 rebounds. She also came up with four steals.
Sophomore Shay McDonald reached double figures with 10 points. She had a team-leading three assists.
Sophomore Meghan Davis led Circleville with 10 points.
Junior Shayna Hoop scored eight points and freshman Kenzie McConnell scored six points.
Circleville led the game early on, 4-1.
By the time the end of the first quarter arrived, Miami Trace was in front, 11-10.
In a very low-scoring second period, Circleville took a 14-11 lead.
Miami Trace did not score until Bryant connected with 2:42 to play in the first half.
A free throw by freshman Olivia Fliehman gave Miami Trace just three points in the second quarter, sending the game into the half with the teams tied, 14-14.
The Lady Panthers connected on back-to-back three-point field goals to open the second half, one from McDonald and one from Lovett, for a 20-14 lead with 6:44 remaining in the third.
Miami Trace would hold onto the lead the remainder of the game.
The Lady Tigers were twice able to pull to within two points, but Miami Trace responded as needed, taking a 29-22 lead into the fourth quarter.
Five unanswered points by Miami Trace to start the fourth opened the lead up to 12 at 34-22.
The margin of difference remained in double figures the rest of the game as the Lady Panthers prevailed, 40-29.
Circleville ends its season with a record of 16-8.
For Miami Trace, it is the 16th Sectional title in the program’s history and the fifth in six years under head coach Ben Ackley.
“Circleville had a great game plan,” Ackley said. “I thought that they ran some stuff against us that we hadn’t seen all year. We were a little surprised that they played as much man (defense) as they did. That’s what they do this time of year.
“They played a triangle and two defense on Shay and Tanner,” Ackley said. “I thought our kids did a lot better job in the second half, once we had time to settle them down a little bit and go over some things. I thought our nerves were calmed.
“We made a couple of shots early in the third quarter and I thought that brought our defensive energy up,” Ackley said. “In the first half, we were playing good defense, we just weren’t playing as hard as we normally do. A lot of that was because Circleville contained us and did a very good job of making it tough for us to make shots.
“We survived,” Ackley said. “We knew this would be a really tough game for us. I’m just very proud of the kids. Circleville’s seen us 10 or 12 times this year. There are no secrets. Our kids have done a very good job the last half of the season of ratcheting the pressure up and playing better in the second half of games. We’re just excited to get out of here.”
“First of all, we wanted to try and keep them out of their transition game, which they are very good at,” Circleville head coach Steve Kalinoski said. “I thought we did a great job of getting back defensively in the first half.
“We tried to throw a couple of things at them,” Kalinoski said. “We zoned them a few times; we used the triangle and two; we tried to deny McDonald a good bit, she’s been shooting the ball extremely well for them. We were definitely aware of where Bryant was at.
“In the first half, our defense was very good,” Kalinoski said. “The one thing we didn’t do a very good job of was boxing out. We could have had a pretty good lead if we could have boxed out a little better in the first half.
“We handled their pressure in the full-court in the first half,” Kalinoski said. “We did a pretty good job of getting into some offensive sets. In the second half, whether we got tired, or not, they picked up their pressure more in the half court. Their pressure does wear on you.
“In the second half we just did not take care of the basketball to get it inside to our post players, which, that was our game plan,” Kalinoski said. “I can see them going a long way again this year in the tournament because of their defensive pressure.”
Tickets: Stop by Miami Trace High School during regular hours this week to purchase tickets for Thursday’s District semifinal. Tickets are $5 each and the school gets to keep 25 percent of the proceeds from the tickets it sells.
SCORE BY QUARTERS
MT 11 3 15 11 — 40
C 10 4 8 7 — 29
MIAMI TRACE — Olivia Wolffe 2-1-5; Cassidy Lovett 1 (1)-6-11; Becca Ratliff 0-0-0; Shay McDonald 2 (2)-0-10; Olivia Fliehman 0-1-1; Tanner Bryant 3 (2)-1-13; Morgan Miller 0-0-0. TOTALS — 8 (5)-9-40. Free throw shooting: 9 of 19 for 47 percent. Three-point field goals: Bryant, 2; McDonald, 2; Lovett. Combined field goal shooting: 13 of 44 for 30 percent. Three-point field goal shooting: 5 of 17 for 29 percent. Rebounds: 28 (15 offensive). Turnovers: 13. Assists: 9. Steals: 11. Personal fouls: 10.
CIRCLEVILLE — Katie Knul 0-0-0; Tori Bircher 1-0-2; Meghan Davis 5-0-10; Mallory Conner 0 (1)-0-3; Sidney Gray 0-0-0; Shayna Hoop 3-2-8; Abby Keaton 0-0-0; Kenzie McConnell 3-0-6; Brie Kendrick 0-0-0. TOTALS — 12 (1)-2-29. Free throw shooting: 2 of 7 for 29 percent. Three-point field goal: Conner. Combined field goal shooting: 13 of 34 for 38 percent. Three-point field goal shooting: 1 of 6 for 17 percent. Turnovers: 23. Offensive rebounds: 12.