If Thursday night's performance against Minford is any indication, then the Lady Mohawks are just fine when they are under the weather.
Heather Ellis battled the flu, and Keri Sanders shrugged off a minor back injury in Northwest's 69-63 win over the Lady Falcons in a Division III district semifinals. In the nightcap, Oak Hill downed Eastern Brown 54-52 to set up a matchup of the co-SOC II champions.
The first game was close throughout the whole night, and only put away as the seconds wound down in the fourth quarter.
“The whole team played some tremendous basketball in the second half,” said Lady Mohawks coach Bob Boldman. “The key to that second half was that we penetrated their 1-3-1 zone, and we were able to get the ball in the middle to Sanders. Our kids played with tremendous poise and confidence, and the seniors really ignited the team to push it to the limit tonight.”
Sanders suffered the injury in the second quarter after a collision, and lay on the ground in pain before coming off the floor. The injury only seemed to inspire Northwest, as the Lady Mohawks pumped the ball down low often, and Sanders scored 16 of her 18 points in the final 16 minutes. She also had a team-high 13 rebounds on the night.
However, it may have been the play of fellow senior Kristen Bradshaw that meant the most to Northwest. Hitting numerous 3-pointers, Bradshaw often quelled Minford's attempts to get out to big leads. It wasn't just shooting behind the arc, though, as she slashed her way to the basket for a game-high 32 points.
“They were just going in tonight,” said Bradshaw. “Everyone says it is hard to beat a team three times in the same year, but coach just told me to step up and score if we wanted to win, so I did that.”
Bradshaw added five rebounds and two steals.
From the onset, it appeared that Thursday's contest would mirror the last game between the squads, which was for a share of the SOC II championship. Northwest led 16-9 at the beginning of the second quarter, and that would be the biggest lead that any team would have until the closing minutes of the fourth.
In the end, though, it may have been the size and experience of the Lady Mohawks that put them in the March 4 district final. With a team full of juniors and seniors, Northwest was able to take advantage of the Lady Falcons' freshmen and sophomores to make it 3-0 against them this season.
“The first time we played, we felt like the experienced team and that we were supposed to win,” said Boldman. “After the second time for the conference title, this time it felt like the pressure was on us. They were a little nervous coming out in the first, but once they got into the flow of the game, they were able to play like they are capable of playing.”
Brittany Hackworth was the final Lady Mohawk to score in double figures, totaling 11 points. Ellis scored only four points, but grabbed 12 rebounds to start Northwest's transition game.
Despite the loss, Minford was able to lead for most of the game, and had a 63-60 lead in the final three minutes before Northwest was able to go on a 9-0 run to close out the contest.
Kara Cayton and Shaye Berry each topped the double-digit mark in scoring, Cayton pouring in 19 points and Berry adding 12. Both had five rebounds.
“Our youth can show at times, but we have been through so much since the beginning of the year that we can build on this for the future,” said an emotional Minford coach Kim Conley. “This group of kids is an amazing group of kids, and I cannot say enough about them. This was an end to the year, but it was not the end of the road.”
The Lady Falcons connected on 10 3-pointers on the night, including four from Cayton and three from Kelli Martin.
In the second game, Oak Hill took on an Eastern Brown team that the Lady Oaks have had some battles with in the past, mostly in regional play. Most of the games were close and Thursday's followed that trend.
Oak Hill found itself down at the beginning of the fourth, but rallied to top the Lady Warriors 54-52.
The deciding points came with 12.4 seconds left, as Lacey Adkins put in a Keisa Davis assist. The Lady Oaks would hold off Eastern Brown the rest of the way, including a tip attempt with 0.1 seconds left that was blocked by Annah Ruff.
“Eastern Brown is a great program,” said Oak Hill coach Doug Hale. “We fought back out of foul trouble and stayed out of foul trouble in the second half. When you thought we were down, someone would make a big play, and we really closed them out defensively at the end of the game.”
Yet, it was the play of Davis that meant the most for the Lady Oaks. She was the only Oak Hill player to top double-figures, but it was a big night. The senior had 30 points, including going 11 of 12 from the free-throw line. Adkins added six points and team-high six rebounds.
“Keisa Davis just refused to lose tonight,” said Hale. “Coming out in the fourth quarter, we knew that Keisa had played so well and had such a great career, that we didn't want it to end. I was also happy with Lacey's performance. She struggled early on, but she kept her head in the game and stayed focused.”
JOSH HICKLE can be reached at (740) 353-3101, ext. 241.
Minford 9 24 17 13 - 63
Northwest 14 15 25 15 - 69
Minford - Cayton 7 1 19, Berry 6 0 12, Martin 3 0 9, Harris 3 1 8, Spradlin 3 0 8, McManus 2 0 4, Brigner 1 1 3. Totals 25 3 63.
Northwest - Bradshaw 12 3 32, Sanders 8 2 18, B. Hackworth 5 0 11, Ellis 2 0 4, Jordan 1 0 2, Strickland 0 2 2. Totals 28 7 69.
3-pointers - Minford 10 (Cayton 4, K. Martin 3, Spradlin 2, Harris). Northwest 6 (Bradshaw 5, B.Hackworth).
Records - Northwest 19-3, Minford 16-7.
Eastern Brown 13 12 20 7 - 52
Oak Hill 13 17 11 13 - 54
Eastern Brown - Bowles 8 2 18, Reeves 4 4 14, Kuttler 3 0 7, Black 1 0 3, Bayer 1 1 3, Doss 1 1 3, Koehler 1 0 2, Hauke 1 0 2. Totals 20 8 52.
Oak Hill - Davis 8 11 30, A. Ruff 2 3 7, Adkins 3 0 6, Phillips 2 1 5, Marshall 1 0 2, Moore 1 0 2, M. Ruff 0 2 2. Totals 17 17 54.
3-pointers - Eastern Brown 4 (Reeves 2, Black, Kuttler). Oak Hill 3 (Davis 3).
Records - Oak Hill 18-5, Eastern Brown 18-5.