MINFORD — As it turned out, Minford made enough field goals early —and enough free throws late — to make its early-season Southern Ohio Conference Division II stand against visiting Valley hold up.
The Lady Falcons soared out to a 23-6 third-quarter lead, and ultimately withstood a furious Lady Indian comeback bid —as Minford captured a narrow 37-36 win on Monday night, inside the Falcons’ Nest and in only Minford’s second game of the entire season.
For the Lady Indians, though, it was their season opener —as their scheduled season opener against Northwest was postponed and rescheduled for Jan. 18.
The Lady Falcons are now 2-0 both ways —as they opened the season with a whopping 59-3 victory over Oak Hill, as Tori Bodey bagged a first-quarter three-point goal for the Lady Oaks’ only points.
But, the Lady Falcons actually pitched a first-quarter shutout against Valley —as the Lady Indians only scored in the second stanza when Emilie Johnson made a basket at the 4:14 mark, then Lexie Morrow made two free throws with 14 seconds left.
Minford never trailed, and scored the opening dozen points with six-foot three-inch Lindsee Williams going for 10, then Marlee Pendleton’s basket boosted the Lady Falcon advantage to 17 (23-6) —as Valley scored its sixth point on a basket by Bella Fultz at the 4:40 mark of the third frame.
And, for the Lady Falcons and first-year head coach Chuck Miller, that was a good thing —given Valley doubled up Minford 30-14 over the final 10 minutes and 45 seconds.
In fact, the Lady Indians got the deficit down to 35-34 with 12-and-a-half seconds left —on a basket by Madison Montgomery off a Johnson assist.
Morrow then fouled out as Valley’s leading scorer, but it wasn’t until 3.4 seconds remained that Lexi Conkel meshed two double-bonus Falcon free throws —and a 37-34 advantage.
Savannah Easter’s open-look corner-pocket three-point attempt rimmed off, as Montgomery made a stickback at the buzzer —but time ran out on the Lady Indians, which were playing without injured starters Lucie Ashkettle and Addy Conaway.
Miller said his Lady Falcons defense did the job for two-and-a-half periods, and it had to do with Minford’s limited scoring as well —with junior Kynedi Davis out injured for the year.
“Our defense for the first two-and-a-half quarters was pretty solid. But that’s going to be our calling card. In the half-court sets, and without Kynedi, we really struggle to score points. Valley made some second-half adjustments, threw the press on us and we didn’t handle it well, and instead of us slowing the game down, they sped us up and got us dribbling into trap zones and throwing the ball away,” said Miller. “They didn’t miss too many shots the second half, and I don’t think they missed too many free throws the whole game. Gotta give their girls credit for coming back and getting us in foul trouble, and we didn’t make it any easier on ourselves with too many missed free throws and turnovers. But as we say, an ugly win is better than a pretty loss.”
For the Lady Indians, it wasn’t a moral victory — but a good comeback effort with much better second-half execution.
Morrow made three second-half field goals and converted nine of 14 free throws for a team-high 15 points, Johnson scored six of her eight in the fourth quarter, Montgomery made two fourth-quarter foul shots along with her two late field goals, and Karsyn Davis drained the game’s only three-pointer — which made it 30-23 Minford with three-and-a-half minutes left.
Easter with two third-frame free throws rounded out the Indians’ scoring, as they made 13-of-18 at the line —with 11 makes coming in the second half, including Morrow’s old-fashioned three-point play.
“Our offensive performance the first half was nowhere near what we’ve done in our four scrimmages. First real game, you turn the lights on, and we were star-struck a little bit, plus we were down two starters. The second half, especially the fourth quarter, we changed our defense and played more up-tempo. That’s where we excel, getting up and down the court,” said third-year Valley coach Tyson Phillips. “Once we get back to a full rotation, and getting Lucie (Ashkettle) and Addy (Conaway) back in there, we’ll be able to play that way a little more and extend those minutes throughout the game. We would like to trap and press a little more, get the game more in transition.”
A slower pace, perhaps, would benefit Williams —who with her size can score inside and off rebound putbacks.
She scored a game-high 16 on Monday night, making six baskets and 4-of-4 free throws.
The Lady Falcons overcame foul trouble, as Conkel and Ava Cronin scored first-quarter field goals —with Williams accounting for all eight second-period points.
“We’re trying to get Lindsee the ball. We did that first half. She was open a lot in the second half, but as Valley sped us up, our girls didn’t see her or find her because we were looking to get rid of the ball. She was right there in the paint and wide open a bunch of times,” said Miller. “When you have a 6-3 girl inside, not too many teams in the area are going to be able to match up. We want her to try and get as many touches as possible.”
Maggie Risner registered six points including 4-of-4 free throws; Conkel, Cronin and Marlee Pendleton posted four points including two foul shots each by Conkel and Pendleton, and Lexi Pendleton scored three in the second half, including a split of fourth-quarter freebies.
As it turned out, the Lady Falcons needed all 37 points.
“Every point counts,” said Miller. “We hung on and needed them all.”
For the Lady Indians, if only they had started as strong as they finished.
“We started running our transition really well, Emilie (Johnson) and Lexie (Morrow) were able to attack the basket, we got to the line and made our free throws,” said Phillips. “I’ve got a good group of girls that no matter what the scoreboard says, they are going to play hard. The second half we played hard, we started scoring in other ways, and got the tempo in our favor. The first half we played hard, we just didn’t make any shots. I never doubt these girls playing hard. When teams learn to play four full quarters, you have chances to come back and try to win a close game at the end.”
Both teams are back in SOC II action on Thursday night —with Minford at Waverly and Valley playing host to South Webster.
* * *
Valley 0 4 10 22 — 36
Minford 6 8 13 10 — 37
VALLEY 36 (0-1, 0-1 SOC II)
Bella Fultz 1 0-0 2, Kelsey Lebrun 0 0-0 0, Karsyn Davis 1 0-0 3, Savannah Easter 0 2-2 2, Emilie Johnson 4 0-0 8, Lexie Morrow 3 9-14 15, Madison Montgomery 2 2-2 6, Emilie Bear 0 0-0 0; TOTALS 11 13-18 36; Three-point field goals: 1 (Karsyn Davis 1)
MINFORD 37 (2-0, 2-0 SOC II)
Lexi Pendleton 1 1-4 3, Maggie Risner 1 4-4 6, Ava Cronin 2 0-0 4, Lexi Conkel 1 2-2 4, Lindsee Williams 6 4-4 16, Marlee Pendleton 1 2-8 4, Lainey Howard 0 0-0 0; TOTALS 12 13-22 37; Three-point field goals: none