MINFORD — For someone who doesn’t “usually shoot” the 3-ball, Caitlyn Puckett sure was dialed in Thursday night.
Using the deep ball, the junior forward scored early and often, spearheading Minford to an early lead over Oak Hill in Southern Ohio Conference II action.
Puckett finished with 15 points — four 3-point field goals — and added eight rebounds and three assists … you know, for good measure.
“I usually don’t shoot [the 3] but it was open so I was like, ‘Oh, it’s open,’” Puckett said.
Take what you can get, right?
As a whole, that’s exactly what Minford did in a 61-48 win over Oak Hill; the team’s second conference win in as many nights after a season-opening loss to Wheelersburg.
“I thought our team did really good tonight,” Puckett said. “We stepped up our effort. After [the loss to] Wheelersburg, we can play better than that, so we had to show that tonight. Oak Hill has a really good coaching staff and since Oak Hill beat ‘Burg, we knew we had to get up and go.”
In Wednesday night’s win over Portsmouth West, the Falcons (2-1, 2-1 SOC II) called upon guards Livi Shonkwiler and Maddie Slusher to do their dirty work. Thursday, those two passed the torch to Puckett and 6-foot-2 center Ashley Blankenship.
Blankenship was a force down low all evening long, scoring a team-high 16 points and bringing down 12 rebounds. But possibly the best part of her performance was knowing when to pass.
“We knew [Oak Hill] was going to sag off and we did a good job, like we talked about, of communicating and showing our hands,” Minford coach Shane Davis said. “Again, the emphasis is team basketball and relocating [the ball]. Why would you not throw it inside with Ashley [Blankenship] under the basket? Sometimes, they tripled down on her but when that happened, we spotted up. That’s what we’ve been working on, relocating.”
That game plan served as a recipe that concocted a win and Davis’ team followed it to a tee.
Overall, Minford was 8-of-15 from beyond the 3-point arc — that was a product of relocating — and outrebounded the Oaks (3-1, 2-1 SOC II) by a 33-18 margin.
“We knew we had to step up and play as a team,” said Blankenship. “Tonight, we made that extra pass. We’re working together and as a team overall and we’ve emphasized rebounding and boxing out. Everyone is starting to come together. I think we have a shot at the SOC.”
Blankenship isn’t at all wrong.
Even with the loss to ‘Burg, the Falcons’ win over Oak Hill forces a five-way tie atop the conference standings and, although it’s still early, Minford looks to be clicking on all cylinders.
“Wheelersburg didn’t get our best, they really didn’t,” Davis said. “Oak Hill … I can’t say enough about coach [Doug Hale]. I knew he was going to throw something at us and he did, he threw a 1-2-2 defense at us. Oak Hill has a lot of athletes. We knew we had to play well tonight.”
Tale of the tape
Within the first three minutes of the contest, Minford’s Hannah Tolle scored twice, off two assists from Puckett, to give the Falcons a 4-1 lead. It was a lead they’d never surrender.
By the end of the first quarter, Tolle had six points and Minford had a 16-8 edge. At the 3:31 mark in the second, Tolle had nine and Puckett had eight while the Falcons held a 26-14 lead before taking a 30-19 advantage into halftime.
The third quarter certainly wasn’t kind to Oak Hill. The Falcons outscored the Oaks 17-7 to blow the doors wide open and enjoy a 47-26 lead heading to the fourth and final eight minutes.
Following Puckett and Blankenship’s efforts, Tolle added nine points and six rebounds while Shonkwiler finished with nine points, four boards and three assists.
For Oak Hill, Caitlyn Brisker scored a game-high 20 points alongside four rebounds. Kasey Riley also helped out with 10 points while Brooke Howards ended the night with six.
What’s on tap
The Falcons get back to action Saturday afternoon against East Carter at Boyd County. Tip-off is scheduled for 1 p.m.
“The girls are playing with confidence right now and we shared the basketball. They’re buying into the team and that’s what we’re after,” Davis said. “We needed that win [against Portsmouth West on Wednesday] because now we’re on the same page.”
Oak Hill: 8-11-7-22 — 48
Minford: 16-14-17-14 — 61
Oak Hill: 15-41 FG, 16-28 FT, 2-13 3pt. (Crabtree 2), 18 rebounds (Brisker 4, Riley 4), 20 turnovers, 4 assists (Brisker 2). Scoring: Brisker 20, Riley 10, Crabtree 8, Howard 6, Chambers 3, Clarkson 1.
Minford: 20-46 FG, 13-17 FT, 8-15 3pt. (Puckett 4), 33 rebounds (Blankenship 12), 20 turnovers, 13 assists (Puckett 3, Shonkwiler 3). Scoring: Blankenship 16, Puckett 15, Shonkwiler 9, Tolle 9, Slusher 7, Watters 5.