LUCASVILLE — South Webster’s Bri Claxon is a freshman … but Bri Claxon doesn’t play like a freshman.
With her team trailing 19-17 at halftime, and with its season on the line, Claxon stepped up in a big way Monday night and sparked a second half run that led to a 44-38 win over Piketon in a Division III sectional semifinal at Valley High School.
Of her game-high 14 points, Claxon scored 11 in the third quarter alone … a period where the Jeeps (9-13) outscored the Redstreaks 15-9 and took control of the ballgame.
“I think Bri started out a little bit slow,” South Webster Ryan Dutiel said. “I think the case of the nerves got her a little bit. We talked to the girls at halftime and told them to settle down and that everything would be fine. We changed up a little bit of what we were doing. It seemed to benefit Bri, allowed her to create a little bit and … she’s a player. We’re fortunate to have her.”
The Jeeps are also fortunate to have Maddie Cook and Baylee Cox, who combined to score 16 points and grab 21 rebounds. As a team, Piketon brought down 24 rebounds.
You understand the significance.
“[Cook and Cox] are huge for us. We’ve leaned on them all year long. Maddie is a veteran player and she’s just a tremendous leader for us,” Dutiel said. “I depend on her a whole lot. We expect them to control the boards because both of them are very physically imposing. For them to show up tonight and do what they did, that was huge for us.”
Tale of the tape
The Redstreaks came out of the gate firing. Behind a 3 from Ally Ritchie and two putbacks from Brianna Odel, Piketon grabbed a 9-2 lead with 3:58 left in the first quarter. But at that moment, South Webster called upon Cook and Cox to enter the game, shifting momentum.
That duo kept the Jeeps in the ballgame, cutting the lead to just two at halftime, 19-17.
“We knew it was going to be a handful with those two bigs in the middle,” Coreno said of Cook and Cox. “We knew we couldn’t stop everything so when they started hitting smoe outside shots, that’s when we had the conunudrum. We chose to stay with the bigs.”
That decision gave Claxon the chance to shine.
Trailing 21-17 with 7:10 to go in the third, Claxon tied the score with back-to-back buckets before Cook gave the Jeeps their first lead of the night at 23-21 at the 5:37 mark. Then, with the game tied at 24, Claxon led an 8-0 run as South Webster take full control, 32-24.
Lightle then hit two free throws and Odel scored again, cutting the lead to 32-28 heading to the fourth. With 4:34 left in regulation, Lightle dialed long distance to cut the lead to 36-34 … but that was as close as the Redstreaks came to regaining an edge.
Down the stretch, the Jeeps remained relentless on the glass and hit needed shots to put the win on ice.
Claxon led South Webster with 14 points while Cook added 10 points and a game-high 11 rebounds. Cox finished with eight points and 10 rebounds, and Karli Montgomery ended the night with two points and five rebounds.
For Piketon, Lightle had 14 points and four boards, Odel added 11 points and a team-high six rebounds, and Ritchie ended with five points and four boards.
What’s on tap
While Piketon ends its season at 12-11 overall, South Webster advances to take on top-seeded Eastern Brown in a Division III sectional final at 1 p.m., Saturday at Valley.
“Eastern Brown is a tough team that’s very well-coached,” Dutiel said. “We’re just hoping to come out and play solid defense against them. We want to try to not let the game dictate us, but rather dictate the game. That would, obviously, play to our advantage.”
South Webster: 6-11-15-8 — 44
Piketon: 10-9-9-10 — 38
South Webster: 17-41 FG, 9-13 FT, 1-9 3pt. (Claxon 1), 43 rebounds (Cook 11), 26 turnovers, 7 assists (Hornikel 3). Scoring: Claxon 14, Cook 10, Cox 8, Maloney 4, Ka. Montgomery 2, Hornikel 2, Stephens 2, Ke. Montgomery 2.
Piketon: 12-53 FG, 10-18 FT, 4-18 3pt. (Lightle 1, Odel 1, Ritchie 1, Little 1), 23 rebounds (Odel 6), 10 turnovers, 6 assists (Odel 2, Wagner 2). Scoring: Lightle 14, Odel 11, Ritchie 5, Little 4, Crothers 2, Wagner 2.
Reach Derrick Webb at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930, by email at [email protected], or on Twitter @dw1509.