MINFORD — Rivalry games, especially in conference action with two teams that are always competitive, never fail to disappoint.
In a gym that was filled with fiery energy, the Minford Falcons’ girls basketball program and the South Webster Jeeps’ girls basketball program fought for 32 minutes to determine a winner. Ultimately, however, Minford’s talented display proved to be too much as the Lady Falcons, who had already clinched the SOC II Championship coming into the evening, overcame 20 hard-fought points from Avery Zempter and a gritty effort from South Webster en route to claiming a 59-50 victory on Thursday evening in Minford and finishing its SOC II slate at a perfect 14-0 overall.
From the outset, Minford’s Caitlyn Puckett and Ashley Blankenship each obtained baskets to put the Lady Falcons up by a 4-0 count as Scott Caudill’s club got off to another hot start.
However, this early lead did not phase the mighty Jeeps, only fueling their passion and drive to continue. They also wanted to reaffirm that they came to play, and they did just that once Zempter took the ball in an astonishing display and effortlessly took a shot from a distance, securing the first three point shot of the game. It was clear that both teams came to play. The remainder of the first quarter ended rather quickly, with both teams showing little tire, with the second quarter becoming just as explosive as the first. Zempter’s strong efforts ultimately resulted in a 20-point outing for the affair, with the senior adding four rebounds, three steals, and two blocks.
However, the Jeeps had always been known for their drive and unwavering prowess in the game, and this game was no different. The remainder of the second half was shot for shot, with both teams refusing to quit, both of them racking up points further and further. With the final few minutes of the quarter winding down, Minford’s Puckett once again slips through South Webster’s defense and secures another basket.
With the Lady Jeeps pushing the offense, the Lady Falcons decided that a 1-3-1 defense would be adequate enough to slow South Webster’s offensive output. It proved that they were correct with their strategy. Webster attempted a shot, however it fell just short of succession and Minford’s Zoe Doll capitalized off of the shot and took command, securing a three point shot of her own and marking her number on Minford’s scoreboard.
With just a couple of minutes remaining, Zempter continued her hot shooting by securing her 16th point of the half on a two-point basket, which just goes to show the amount of skill and power that the Lady Jeeps possessed. The first half ended with a score of 37-27, with the Lady Falcons in the lead. For facing such adversity, the Jeeps held on in what was a seat clenching contest of two beyond capable teams.
While Minford kept its advantage through the third quarter of action, the fourth quarter proved to get somewhat tight for the Lady Falcons as Kristie Johnson’s club made one final push.
The first part of the quarter was seldom in terms of scoring, however once the game reached its’ final four minutes, that is when the game truly reached its apex. Webster’s Kaylee Hadinger stole a promising looking pass from the Falcons and barrelled down the court to make the basket her own, giving the Jeeps that last bit of passion they needed to carry out the remainder of the game as Hadinger (eight points, a steal), Madison Cook (11 points, seven rebounds), and Ellie Jo Johnson (15 rebounds, nine points, a steal) all contributed in a strong manner.
However, with only 1:04 left and South Webster within 57-50, Minford’s Ashley Blankenship secures a final two point shot, making this the end of the game for both sides, and securing the win for the Lady Falcons. The Falcons celebrated by cutting down their winning net, with Caudill ultimately taking a selfie atop the ladder with his proud team behind him.
“Forming relationships and bonds with these girls and seeing them win, seeing the smiles on their faces afterwards, that’s what it’s all about,” Caudill said. “I’m so proud of them and what they accomplished. It’s all about them.”
“Our junior varsity and varsity both played really hard tonight and I am proud of their efforts,” Johnson said of the Lady Jeeps. “Even though the result wasn’t a ‘W,’ we will build on that and get ready for tournament time.”
With the victory, Minford (19-0, 14-0 SOC II), will turn its attention to a primo Saturday evening contest against West Carter (Ky.) at the Tackett’s Body Shop Shootout in Ironton before finishing off the year with Peebles (Monday) and Waterford (next Saturday). South Webster, meanwhile, will close out its season with a road bout at Clay on Monday evening.