MCDERMOTT - A third-straight sectional championship and a major upset slipped right through Valley's fingers - literally.
Valley trailed Whiteoak by three points with less than 20 seconds to play in a sectional final game at Northwest High School Saturday and had two possessions to try and tie.
But after a missed 3, a pass from the post out to the wing slipped through a Lady Indian's hands and out of bounds allowing Whiteoak to go on to win a Division IV Sectional Final 52-47.
The second-seeded Lady Wildcats got out to a fast start and it appeared seventh-seeded Valley was in for a blowout. A 20-6 run opened the game for Whiteoak, but quick scores by Valley's Jordan Arbaugh and Courtnie Merritt made the score 20-10 after one.
From there it was an uphill climb but the Lady Indians just couldn't grab the lead.
“We had the ball go through our hands and we had a real good look at a 3,” said Valley coach Mark Merritt. “That's all you can ask for.”
While Valley was missing shots and turning the ball over, Whiteoak was turning to Kayla Seip. The 5-foot-10 junior center scored a game-high 18 points in the contest and caused matchup troubles for Valley when she was in the game. Skye Lucas scored 10 points with eight rebounds for the Lady Wildcats.
Valley was led by Arbaugh's 16 points and 12 rebounds and Courtnie Merritt's 14 points with six rebounds. Beth Martin had a double-double with 12 points and 11 rebounds and it was her play down the stretch that kept Valley alive.
Martin was 0 for 7 from the floor heading into the fourth quarter, but scored 10 points in the fourth as Valley tried to overcome but the Lady Indians never got closer than one.
“We didn't do the small things well,” said Merritt. “We didn't catch passes and we didn't make layups.”
With a record of 9-10, the Lady Indians' season isn't over just yet. Valley still has to schedule a make up game with Wheelersburg meaning the seniors, Haley Merritt, Jaime Montgomery and Martin, have a chance to finish their high school careers with a win and a .500 season.
South Webster 56, New Boston 37
It was a tale of two Kaylas and it turned out to be the best of times for South Webster and the worst of times for New Boston as the interconference schools met in a sectional final.
The two teams had a lot in common. Both play in the SOC, though separate divisions, both have no seniors on the roster and both have a Kayla.
Freshman Kayla Cook of South Webster and sophomore Kayla Wiley of New Boston are the best players on their respective teams. Both coaches knew it was a matter of stopping, or at least containing the other.
South Webster had more success in that regard as a cadre of Lady Jeeps combined to get Wiley into foul trouble and hold her to 14 points to advance to the Division IV District Semifinal at Jackson on Thursday.
Wiley picked up her fourth foul with 3:17 left in the third quarter with the Lady Jeeps ahead 29-27. With her on the bench, South Webster was able to go on a 11-2 run to break the game open.
“We knew the key was going to be containing Wiley,” said South Webster coach Kristie Johnson. “We had four keys. Collapse on the drive, run the floor well, take care of the ball and box out. There were a few offensive rebounds (New Boston) got but we did the other three well.”
In addition to that game plan, the Lady Jeeps had Cook. The 5-foot-9 guard scored 25 points with 11 rebounds while shredding the Lady Tigers' defense. With the game in hand late in the fourth quarter, Cook even did a little trash talking.
Guarded close by New Boston's Tasha Buckley right of the key near South Webster bench Cook said something to the effect of “I'm not scared,” which drew a laugh from the bench.
“Coach says I don't have fun during games, so I was just messing around,” said Cook of the comment. “The community never thought we could be this good, but coach said that if we play hard, we can be a good as we want to be. We want to go to the district final and keep playing. We have to keep stepping up.”
There was not much fun for New Boston, which shot 3 for 28 in the first half and nothing seemed to go its way with Wiley in foul trouble. South Webster wasn't missing many shots and would get the rebound when it did.
At one point New Boston finally did get a defensive rebound off a free throw but a Lady Tiger shot the ball back in, scoring two for the Lady Jeeps. Missy Buckley scored 11 with four rebounds in the loss.
“I think the problem is that we're a young team,” said New Boston coach Rachel Coriell, who improved her overall coaching record from 18-23 to 34-28 this season and led the Lady Tigers to their first SOC I championship. “South Webster wanted this more. We're living in that big glory of winning the league. I hated to see them let it go like that.”
Aside from Cook winning the battle of the Kaylas, South Webster had another advantage - help, and it came in the form of 6-foot-2 sophomore Erin Sherman. New Boston had no answer for Sherman's height as the center scored 12 points with 15 rebounds.
“In the fourth quarter, we started pulling away,” said Sherman. “Once we did, we were just waiting for it to be over.
“(Height) was big,” Sherman added. “I was mainly the decoy so we could run screens for Kayla. I was just a decoy to pull players off of her.”
South Webster is currently 13-9 and assured of its first winning record in two years. Two seasons ago the Lady Jeeps were 0-21 and last season the team went 2-19. South Webster will play Trimble, which upset Symmes Valley 45-39 Saturday, in the Divisional IV District Semifinal in Jackson on Thursday.
JOHN STEGEMAN can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Valley 10 11 12 14 - 47
Whiteoak 20 8 13 11 - 52
Valley - Mains 2 0 4, Hoover 0 1 1, Martin 5 2 12, C. Merritt 6 2 14, Arbaugh 7 2 16. Totals 20 7 47.
Whiteoak - Barr 1 6 9, Lucas 4 2 10, Kr. Seip 0 1 1, Blair 4 0 8, Neal 2 0 6, Ka. Seip 7 4 18. Totals 18 3 52.
3-pointers - Valley 0; Whiteoak 3 (Barr, Neal 2)
Record - Valley 9-10; Whiteoak 13-5
South Webster 9 12 19 16 - 56
New Boston 7 10 12 8 - 37
South Webster - Puckett 0 2 2, Culver 2 2 6, Queen 1 0 3, Sherman 5 2 12, Roark 1 0 2, Rawlins 1 0 2, Cook 7 10 25, Moore 2 0 4. Totals 19 16 56.
New Boston - Williams 0 2 2, T. Buckley 1 0 2, M. Buckley 2 6 11, Euton 3 0 6, Horsley 0 1 1, Malone 0 1 1, Wiley 2 10 14. Totals 8 20 37.
3-pointers - South Webster 2 (Queen, Cook); New Boston 1 (M. Buckley)
Records - South Webster 13-9; New Boston 16-5