THORNVILLE — If you would have tried, you couldn’t have picked a tougher opponent to play in just the second game of the tournament than the Sheridan Lady Generals.
Playing the number one seed and the Associated Press’ number one team in the state in Division II, and on their home court, was the challenge for the Miami Trace Lady Panthers in the District semifinals Tuesday night in Perry County.
Sheridan jumped out on Miami Trace early, taking a 14-0 lead and went on to post a 57-29 victory.
Sheridan will next host Warren for a District championship Friday night.
In the other District championship in the Southeast, it will be Vinton County going up against Circleville.
Miami Trace ends the 2020-21 season with a record of 14-6.
Under the direction of head coach Ben Ackley, Miami Trace has now won seven league titles and seven Sectional titles in nine seasons, as well as making it to the State Final Four in 2018. In the last nine years, the Miami Trace Lady Panthers have produced a record of 157-55.
For Miami Trace, senior Delaney Eakins led with eight points. She hit two three-point field goals and snagged two rebounds.
Senior Magarah Bloom scored five points and led her team with eight rebounds.
Senior Gracee Stewart scored five points, including connecting for one three-point basket, and sophomore Hillery Jacobs hit one three and finished with five points.
Junior Libby Aleshire had two points and three rebounds, junior Sidney Payton scored two points and sophomore Gracey Ferguson had three rebounds.
In a rare occurrence, a Sheridan player scored two points for Miami Trace.
Junior Bailey Beckstedt hit four of her team’s 10 three-point baskets and finished with a game-high 26 points.
Freshman Jamisyn Stinson scored 12 points (on four threes); junior Faith Stinson had 10 points and senior Sara Robinette scored five.
Sheridan led 17-4 at the end of the first quarter and 33-13 at the half.
After three quarters of play, it was Sheridan 51, Miami Trace 19.
“They were an exceptional group,” Miami Trace head coach Ben Ackley said of Sheridan. “We held their best player to (10) points. That was our game plan going in, to make sure they didn’t beat us with their number one option. But, their number two or three option scored 26.
“That’s just the sign of a really good team,” Ackley said. “We felt like they weren’t a really good match-up for us, man-to-man, so we played a lot more zone than normal and they made 10 threes. Good teams make you pay. They attack you where you are vulnerable and they did a very good job at taking advantage of every mistake we made.
“They are very well-coached,” Ackley said. “They are just sound. I don’t see them having one glaring weakness. I think the best aspect of their game is their perimeter defense. I thought they had four kids that could really guard hard out front. It’s a 32-minute war when you are playing them. There’s not one possession or one pass you can take for granted and it wears you down, physically and mentally over the course of the game.
“Sheridan has all the makings of a Final Four club,” Ackley said.
Ackley took a look at the season, overall.
“Our non-league schedule, being as tough as what it was, really challenged us early,” Ackley said. “After we started out 0-2, which we had never done in my eight previous years here, a lot of teams would have just packed it in and had a sub-par season.
“Our kids showed a lot of resiliency and fight,” Ackley said. “They take a lot of pride in being Lady Panther basketball players and, we feel like we have a really good program full of great kids and great parents. They played very prideful over the second half of the season.
“I thought we played our best basketball near the end of the season which, as a coach, that’s all you can ask for,” Ackley said. “Our effort at Sheridan was great, right up until the buzzer rang. They represented themselves, their families, their school and their community very well and for that, we’ll always be very proud.
“We like to refer to ourselves as a championship program and they notched two more championships this season,” Ackley said. “We gained another outright league championship and another Sectional championship, which is something to be proud of, as well.
“We’ve been blessed with a lot of talent and a great staff,” Ackley said.
A tip of the cap to Karl Kellenberger, who has been with the Miami Trace Lady Panthers’ basketball program either as a youth coach or score-book keeper for the last 23 seasons.
SCORE BY QUARTERS
MT 4 9 6 10 — 29
S 17 16 18 6 — 57
MIAMI TRACE — Gracee Stewart 1 (1)-0-5; Magarah Bloom 2-1-5; Libby Aleshire 1-0-2; Gracey Ferguson 0-0-0; Addy Little 0-0-0; Sidney Payton 1-0-2; Hillery Jacobs 1 (1)-0-5; Emma Pitstick 0-0-0; Delaney Eakins 0 (2)-2-8; Jessee Stewart 0-0-0. TOTALS — 7 (4)-3-29. Free throw shooting: 3 of 4 for 75 percent. Three-point field goals: Eakins, 2; G. Stewart, Jacobs. Field goal shooting: 11 of 47 for 23 percent. Three-point field goal shooting: 4 of 15 for 27 percent. Turnovers: 17. Assists: 4. Steals: 4. Rebounds: 20 (5 offensive).
SHERIDAN — Faith Stinson 5-0-10; Jamisyn Stinson 0 (4)-0-12; Bailey Beckstedt 5 (4)-4-26; Grace Conrad 0-0-0; Abby Dupler 0-1-1; Alex Finck 0-0-0; Kinze Miller 0 (1)-0-3; Macie Forgrave 0-0-0; Sara Robinette 1 (1)-0-5; Emma Conrad 0-0-0. TOTALS — 11 (10)-5-57. Free throw shooting: 5 of 8 for 63 percent. Three-point field goals: J. Stinson, 4; Beckstedt, 4; Miller, Robinette. Field goal shooting: 21 of 52 for 40 percent. Three-point field goal shooting: 10 of 28 for 36 percent. Turnovers: 10. Offensive rebounds: 8.
Stats by Karl Kellenberger