MINFORD — What a difference a week, and Ally Coriell, made for the Minford Lady Falcons.
That’s because the Lady Falcons fell to the Waverly Lady Tigers only six days earlier, and it appeared — for the majority of Saturday’s Southern Ohio Conference Division II makeup matchup — that visiting Waverly would pull away and complete the season sweep.
But the Lady Falcons finally, after an inconsistent season to date in which they have lost several close encounters, figured out how to close a comeback bid — and as a result capture a confidence-boosting victory.
Minford erased a 10-point third-quarter deficit, and the six-foot four-inch tall Coriell collected a double-double, as the Lady Falcons charged back for an entertaining 55-52 win over the Lady Tigers at Minford High School.
On Monday, host Waverly won 38-32 over the Lady Falcons in a regularly-scheduled game —in which Minford coach Shane Davis didn’t believe his squad played “all that well”.
On Saturday, he said his Lady Falcons played like they practiced all week — in preparation for the return tilt.
It paid off in the form of an important win, which raised Minford’s record to 8-10 —and to 6-7 in the SOC II.
“We didn’t feel real good about the game the other day. Not to take anything away from Waverly because they have a good team, but we had a lot of unforced turnovers in that game and we didn’t rebound well. Those were two things that we emphasized working on in practice this week, so we really took that and applied it to the game today,” said Davis. “I couldn’t be more proud because we battled back being down 10. We have several losses seven points or less, and we’ve battled all year long and these girls give great effort all the time, but we just haven’t been able to get over that hump. Tonight, we came together as a team the way I thought we could.”
Minford made its rally after falling behind by as much as 10 points with exactly a minute to play in the third quarter —when Waverly’s Delaney Tackett tallied an open three-pointer in the corner against the Lady Falcons’ 2-3 zone defense.
Minford senior Maddie Slusher started the comeback bid by immediately answering with a three off the wing, then the Lady Falcons forged ahead by outscoring the Lady Tigers 21-11 in the final period — including 15-7 over the opening six minutes and 35 seconds to take their first lead since 7-6 midway through the opening canto.
Hannah Tolle nailed a colossal three-ball with 2:37 to play to get the Lady Falcons to within one at 46-45, as Livi Shonkwiler scored to lift Minford into the lead at 49-48 with only 1:25 remaining.
That basket followed a big defensive rebound by Coriell, who was easily the tallest player on the floor and grabbed several key caroms —including on the ensuing possession when Waverly standout Zoiee Smith missed.
That rebound set Slusher up from the free-throw line in the final 53 seconds, as she sank 6-of-8 with the Lady Falcons in the one-and-one bonus situation.
Smith scored twice for the Lady Tigers to twice make it a two-point deficit at 52-50 and 54-52, as Slusher split her final pair of tosses with 10 seconds left.
That meant Waverly — trailing 55-52 — would have a chance to tie and send it to overtime, but Carli Knight raced down the lane and missed a two-point attempt, as Coriell corralled the final rebound.
Speaking of rebounding, because Minford missed many often easy opportunities at the rim, it played perhaps the most decisive role in Saturday’s outcome.
Coriell pulled most of those in on either end, as she mixed putback-baskets with mid-range to 15-foot jump shots towards a season-high 14 points on six field goals and 2-of-2 second-quarter free throws.
“She (Coriell) played well the whole game. She knocked down some outside shots early, which if you’re going to guard her in our case, we’re going to force her to make those shots instead of two or three feet from the basket,” said Waverly coach John Bonifeld. “She made them, so she got confidence early. Give her credit.”
Davis concurred about Coriell.
“Ally was a presence inside. Not sure how many rebounds she had, but she had 14 points. She has really come along throughout the year. She had a decent game at their place the other night, but she really came to play today. We played them on Monday, but we had to rebound better tonight than we did against them the other day,” he said. “I knew we did not win the boards, so we focused on that in practice all week. I am willing to bet we did win that tonight.”
Bonifeld candidly confirmed what Davis hunched at.
“We gave them way too many opportunities with second-chance and third-chance points. We didn’t do a good job boxing out. You just can’t give opponents second, third and fourth chances. We did that really throughout the whole ballgame and it finally caught up to us in the fourth quarter,” he said. “It just comes down to rebounding better. We did a horrible job rebounding this game.”
Waverly also missed seven free throws out of 18 attempts, while Minford —buoyed by the senior Slusher’s 7-of-10 —meshed 11-of-14.
Coriell and Makenzie Watters went 2-of-2 in the second period apiece, as Slusher was cool under pressure in the final 53 seconds.
“Maddie made some really clutch free throws down the stretch,” said Davis.
Slusher scored 15 points, as she made three field goals including a pair of important treys.
Shonkwiler paced the Lady Falcons with 17 points —on seven deuces and a key second-stanza three-pointer.
Tolle tallied seven on two twos and her massive three, as Davis discussed how critical all four threes were — and when Minford made them.
The Lady Tigers took the lead at 9-8 with 3:10 to play in the first frame, and maintained anywhere from a one-to-five-point advantage over the next nearly 17 minutes.
Slusher’s first triple beat the first-quarter buzzer to make it 15-13, while Shonkwiler splashed hers with 23 seconds left in the second to make it 27-26 at halftime.
Finally, after Waverly went ahead 41-31, Slusher started the Lady Falcons’ rally with her second trifecta with 42 tics to play in the third — followed by Tolle tacking on hers to get the deficit back to one (46-45).
Indeed, Minford made four clutch threes — when Waverly was ahead by at least four in each instance.
“We had some (defensive) breakdowns, but that’s a great shot Slusher hit (at the end of first quarter). You have to live with that one. Then we lost Tolle in transition and she got an open look. Throughout the course of the game, that’s going to happen. And when you have quality shooters, they are going to knock those down,” said Bonifeld. “You have to give credit to Minford for doing so.”
The Lady Tigers dialed long distance three times, including twice by Michaela Rhoads, whose second three —from the corner —stretched the Waverly lead to 36-30 with a minute and 55 seconds to play in the third.
Tackett’s trey made it 41-31, but then the Lady Falcons’ fierce comeback began for the final nine minutes.
Smith — with the defensive stalwart Shonkwiler guarding her — scored 16 points to pace Waverly, on seven field goals and 2-of-3 free throws.
Sarah Thompson netted nine points on two field goals and 5-of-5 free throws, while Rhoads (two threes), Kelli Stewart (three twos) and Paige Carter (one field goal and 4-of-4 free throws) chipped in six points apiece for the Tigers.
The disappointing loss left the Lady Tigers with an even 6-6 record in the SOC II — part of 11-7 overall.
“We have to learn to close out games. This is two league games in a row we had a lead late and let it get away,” said Bonifeld. “Have to find a way to finish ballgames in the fourth quarter this time of year.”
Waverly will play at Eastern on Monday night, while Minford returns home —and returns to SOC II action —on Monday night against division-leader Wheelersburg.
Davis said Saturday’s come-from-behind triumph hopefully has the Lady Falcons believing in what they are in fact capable of accomplishing.
“We’ve battled and been there all year long. We really have and these girls give me great effort. It would be easy with the way this season has gone so far for these girls to fall apart. But we’ve worked on things together as a team, and tonight we really played as a team,” he said. “We had girls step up and do the small things that show up both in the scorebook and not, and I am very proud of them for this win. We needed it.”
* * *
Waverly 15 12 14 11— 52
Minford 13 13 8 21— 55
WAVERLY 52 (11-7, 6-6 SOC II)
Kelli Stewart 3 0-1 6, Carli Knight 1 0-2 2, Michaela Rhoads 2 0-0 6, Raelyn Dale 2 0-0 4, Delaney Tackett 1 0-0 3, Zoiee Smith 7 2-3 16, Sarah Thompson 2 5-8 9, Paige Carter 1 4-4 6; TOTALS 19 11-18 52; Three-point goals: 3 (Michaela Rhoads 2, Delaney Tackett 1)
MINFORD 55 (8-10, 6-7 SOC II)
Ally Coriell 6 2-2 14, Makayla Watters 0 0-0 0, Makenzie Watters 0 2-2 2, Livi Shonkwiler 8 0-0 17, Maddie Slusher 3 7-10 15, Hannah Tolle 3 0-0 7; TOTALS 20 11-14 55; Three-point goals: 4 (Maddie Slusher 2, Livi Shonkwiler and Hannah Tolle 1 apiece)
Reach Paul Boggs at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1926, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @BoggsSports © 2020 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved