LUCASVILLE— Sometimes key plays or performances go unnoticed in-large part because others have a bigger showing in the game.
Tori Leader’s 25 points for West wouldn’t have matter if it weren’t for the two free throws made by Taylor Conley with 11 seconds in the game.
“Taylor never quits and plays hard every single play and when they fouled her I knew we were fine,” West coach Gregg Maynard said.
With the help of Conley and 25 points from Leader, the No. 7 seed West Senators (13-11) defeated the No. 2 seed Wheelersburg Pirates (16-6) 53-48, in an exciting Division III Southeast Sectional Championship that produced no lead bigger than six points.
“Two good teams battled and we didn’t guard as well as we needed,” Wheelersburg coach Dusty Spradlin said. “I give our kids credit they battled and it just wasn’t meant to be tonight.”
The Senators will play No. 3 seed Oak Hill, which defeated No. 6 Zane Trace 62-34 Saturday at Jackson. The game will be a 1:45 p.m. tip next Saturday at Waverly’s Downtown Gymnasium.
It is the fourth year in a row West has advanced to the district tournament.
“We are looking at the banners in the school and softball is the only team to ever have done that,” Maynard said. “Now we have done that and I can’t express how good of a feeling that is.”
Leader was responsible for 47 percent of West’s points and 10-of-20 free throws which were made by the team.
“I told her to take over the game in the third quarter and take the ball to the hole,” Maynard said. “It was the difference in the ballgame, her attacking the rim and getting to the free throw line.”
With Leader fouling out with 1:01 remaining, someone else needed to make a big shot for the Senators. Leading 51-48 with 11 seconds remaining, Conley grabbed the loose ball and was fouled. She hit both, icing the game and capping off the victory.
Trailing by one coming out in the second half, the Pirates outscored West 17-11 in the third period to gain a 37-31 advantage heading to the fourth quarter. Sydney Holden, who finished with a team-high 19 points, matched Leader all the way to the finish.
“Sydney played very well tonight,” Spradlin said. “I can’t say enough about what she has done.”
Trailing by six at the start of the fourth quarter, West went on a 7-0 run and took the lead after two free throws from Leader to make the game 38-37 with 5:21 left in the game. Later in the quarter, Leader hit a tough runner in the paint and got fouled to pull the Senators within 46-43.
The Pirates continued to hold off West until Leader hit back-to-back jumpers.
“Regardless of what happened today nobody can take away the year that we had,” Spradlin said. “Those kids came in and worked at it and had a nice season.”
Fay Proehl is the lone Wheelersburg senior to graduate from the program. She finished with eight points.
West 13 7 11 22 — 53
Wheelersburg 9 10 17 12 — 48
West — Conley 1-6-8, Cremeans 1-2-4, Journey 3-0-8, Leader 7-10-25, Ridout 3-2-8, Totals 15-11-53.
Wheelersburg — Smith 1-1-3, Proehl 3-1-8, Holden 3-12-19, Stegman 3-2-8, Adams 2-0-4, Willis 2-0-6, Totals 14-16-48.
3-Point Goals — West 3 (Journey 2, Leader); Wheelersburg 3 (Willis 2, Proehl).
Records — West 13-11; Wheelersburg 16-6.