Three teams entered play Saturday in the Frontier Athletic Conference controlling their own destiny in the battle for the championship.
McClain, Miami Trace and Chillicothe all began the second half of FAC play tied at 4-1. If any of those three teams could go undefeated in the second half of the season, they would win the outright FAC title.
The defending FAC champions, Washington, hosted McClain Saturday afternoon, Jan. 11.
The outcome turned on the pivotal second quarter, in which McClain outscored Washington 11-0 en route to a 42-41 victory.
McClain beat Washington 48-44 in overtime when the teams played in Greenfield back on Nov. 30.
There remains a three-way tie for the top spot in the FAC as Miami Trace defeated Jackson, 47-30 and Chillicothe beat Hillsboro, 48-38 on Saturday.
McClain junior Kyla Burchett was the leading scorer in this game for the second time this season. Burchett led with 15 points in the first meeting of these two long-standing rivals.
On Saturday, Burchett seemed incapable of missing a shot, pouring in 24 points.
As it turned out, McClain needed everyone of those points.
Junior Brianna Weller and freshman Payton Pryor each scored six points for the Lady Tigers.
Washington senior Halli Wall led with 12 points.
Sophomore Jeleeya Tyree-Smith came off the bench and provided a huge spark with 10 of her 11 points coming in the fourth quarter.
Senior Shawna Conger scored 10 points and led Washington with seven rebounds and three assists.
Freshman Natalie Woods had five and sophomore Aaralyne Estep had four rebounds. Woods had two steals.
“Kudos to my kids,” McClain head coach Jarrod Haines said. “I got on them and they accepted the challenge. Kyla Burchett had a day. Her touch around the basket and from mid-range was amazing. She made some huge baskets for us. She just did not hesitate.
“We were struggling a little bit, Josie Crabtree hit a huge basket for us there at the end of the third quarter,” Haines said. “That three, that was big for us.
“Tyree-Smith is a handful when they isolated her,” Haines said. “They knocked down some shots.
“Defensively, the kids did what they needed to do,” Haines said. “Any time you can come to Washington Court House and get a win, we’ll take it.
“We won by one last Saturday, we won by two by Wednesday,” Haines said. “We have to learn how to go in the third and fourth.”
“This was a tough one for us this afternoon,” Washington head coach Samantha Leach said. “The second quarter obviously just sticks out for us. Not scoring in a quarter really hurts you in the long run.
“Our girls did an excellent job fighting back,” Leach said. “Our second half was just night and day compared to the first.
“I thought we did a really good job coming out in the first quarter,” Leach said. “We had a lot of energy, even from our bench. The girls were ready to go, I mean, they were fired up. We had a great warm-up. But then, we just lost that momentum. The entire second quarter we seemed a little lost out there. We couldn’t find any energy, we couldn’t get anything working for us on the offensive end.”
It was a very good start for Washington, as the Lady Lions began the game with an 8-2 run.
McClain then outscored Washington 7-2 to pull to within one point, 10-9, at the end of the first quarter.
The second quarter was inexplicable for Washington. The Lady Lions went ice cold, missing all 12 of their field goal attempts. Washington was also 0 of 2 from the free throw line in the second quarter.
Meanwhile, Burchett scored eight points in the second quarter and Pryor scored three as McClain won the period, 11-0 to take a 20-10 lead into the halftime break.
McClain scored the first two points of the third quarter to make it a 20-0 run.
In a lot of instances, a team would not be able to come back against a team that had just scored 20 unanswered points on them.
Washington would make a tremendous comeback effort in this one.
McClain led twice by as many as 14 points in the third quarter.
Washington went on a 13-2 run for the remainder of the quarter.
Junior Josie Crabtree hit her only bucket of the game, a three-point field goal, to end the third with McClain in front, 34-28.
After a three by Burchett to open the fourth, Wall and Tryee-Smith hit back-to-back threes for Washington to pull the Lady Lions to within three points, 37-34 with just over six minutes to play in the game.
After a free throw by Pryor, Tyree-Smith scored again to make it 38-36.
McClain scored back-to-back second chance buckets.
Washington trailed 40-39 and 42-41, but could not tie or take the lead.
In fact, there was no further scoring in the final three-plus minutes of the game.
With the score set at 42-41, McClain, the Lady Tigers had a turnover, followed by a Washington miss.
Both teams then turned the ball over on their next possession.
McClain then missed its next two shot attempts and Washington had the ball with a chance to take the lead, but the shot was missed.
Washington had fouls to give to get McClain to the foul line.
After the sixth team foul for Washington and a Lady Lions time out, a held ball gave possession back to Washington.
Another tie-up resulted in Washington not getting a shot off and McClain regaining possession with 18.4 seconds left.
Washington fouled with 13.7 seconds, sending McClain to the line.
McClain missed the front end of a one and bonus.
However, Washington turned the ball over with 8.1 seconds to play.
Washington fouled again, this time with 4.9 seconds remaining.
Again, the McClain player at the line missed the front end of a one-and-one.
Washington had the ball one final time, but a pass up court went out of bounds.
It was a difficult loss for the Lady Lions and a key win for McClain on the road.
“We’ve got four more big ones (FAC games) left and none of them are easy,” Haines said. “The coaches in this league are some of the best around. They put a lot of work in. We just have to keep fighting and we’ll see what happens.”
Washington (7-6 overall, 2-4 FAC) is at Hillsboro for another conference game Wednesday at 6 p.m.
SCORE BY QUARTERS
W 10 0 18 13 — 41
Mc 9 11 14 8 — 42
WASHINGTON — Allie Mongold 0-0-0; Aaralyne Estep 0-0-0; Kaelin Pfeifer 0-0-0; Kendall Dye 1-0-2; Jeleeya Tyree-Smith 3 (1)-2-11; Abby Tackage 0-0-0; Natalie Woods 2-0-6; Halli Wall 3 (2)-0-12; Shawna Conger 3 (1)-1-10; Megan Sever 0-0-0. TOTALS — 12 (4)-5-41. Free throw shooting: 5 of 9 for 56 percent. Three-point field goals: Wall, 2; Tryee-Smith, Conger. Field goal shoooting: 16 of 49 for 33 percent. Turnovers: 10. Rebounds: 29 (11 offensive). Steals: 3. Assists: 5.
McCLAIN — Cierra Bolender 0-0-0; Brianna Weller 3-0-6; Payton Pryor 1-4-6; Jaelyn Pitzer 0 (1)-0-3; Josie Crabtree 0 (1)-0-3; Kyla Burchett 8 (2)-2-24; Emma Stegbauer 0-0-0. TOTALS — 12 (4)-6-42. Free throw shooting: 6 of 13 for 46 percent. Three-point field goals: Burchett, 2; Pitzer, Crabtree. Field goal shooting: 16 of 38 for 42. Turnovers: 14.