LUCASVILLE — The setup, anyway, was more than ideal for the Minford Lady Falcons on Wednesday night.
Despite being the lower-seeded squad against the New Lexington Lady Panthers, Minford’s Division III sectional semifinal served as a de facto home tilt — given the 19th-seeded Lady Falcons traveling a mere 15 minutes on a rainy and and downright nasty night, while the 14th-seeded Lady Panthers’ trip by bus took two-and-a-half hours.
Unfortunately for Minford, it’s still a game of four quarters —or two halves.
And, quite frankly, the Lady Falcons simply struggled to stop — AND score against — the Lady Panthers over the final 16 minutes, as Minford fell 62-53 at nearby Valley High School.
The Lady Panthers’ long trip to Scioto County didn’t have any long-lasting effects, as —in fact —New Lexington looked much stronger and sharper as the game grew older.
It outscored the Lady Falcons 36-26 in the second half, doubling up Minford 14-7 for the third quarter —before going off for 22 points in the pull-away fourth frame, in which the Lady Panthers actually pushed their lead to as large as a dozen points three times (56-44, 58-46 and 60-48).
New Lexington never trailed in the fourth period, as Minford was never closer in the canto than 40-39 —or closer than four points (43-39) over the final 7:38 or six points (50-44) over the final 6:25.
For the Lady Panthers, enjoying their first winning season in a decade this winter, they raised their record to 13-10 —and advanced to play third-seeded Ironton (20-3) in Saturday’s sectional championship at Valley.
Tipoff time for that four-bout nightcap is set for 6:15 p.m.
Minford, meanwhile, must make up a Southern Ohio Conference Division II duel at Northwest on Monday to officially complete its season — as the Lady Falcons fell to 9-13 with Wednesday’s disappointing defeat.
Minford’s downfall was two-fold, scoring seven points in the entire third quarter —and simply being unable to stop the Lady Panthers’ Aubri Spicer.
Spicer poured in a game-high 25 points on 11 two-point goals, but it was her go-ahead dagger corner-pocket three-pointer that completely turned the tide in the Perry Countians’ favor.
Maddie Slusher, the Minford senior standout who amounted 22 points to almost match Spicer shot-for-shot, splashed her final of her three threes to give the Lady Falcons their final lead at 37-36.
That was with a minute and three seconds remaining in the third, but after New Lexington’s Kim Kellogg split a pair of free throws with 32 seconds left, Spicer swished her three-ball before the buzzer to make it 40-37.
As part of the Lady Panthers’ 22-point fourth, they scored several on wide-open layups — making it easily appear as if Minford missed defensive assignments.
Spicer scored a pair of baskets, Megan Skillman scored her half-dozen points on two buckets and 2-of-2 free throws, Kellogg canned a deuce and a trey, Kenadee Dillon drilled a trifecta, and Emma Abrams amassed 5-of-6 foul shots in the final two minutes to seal it.
Spicer sank 11-of-15 field goals from inside the arc, and took two tries outside of it, as New Lexington landed 23 of its 50 total shots for exactly 46-percent.
The Lady Panthers did turn the ball over 17 times, but forced 18 turnovers from the Lady Falcons, as Minford shot 32-percent on 18-on-56 —including 7-of-21 (33-percent) from deep.
Slusher scored 15 of her 22 in the opening half, including her second triple with 68 seconds left in the second stanza —making it 30-22 for Minford’s largest lead.
However, over the next three minutes and 46 seconds, the Lady Panthers answered with eight unanswered for the game’s initial tie —as there were three other ties at 32-32, 34-34 and 37-37.
Abrams’ only basket, with 2:12 to play in the third, made it 36-34 for New Lexington’s first lead since the end of the opening quarter.
Speaking of that first period, the Lady Falcons forged the first seven points before the Lady Panthers roared right back with the next 10.
Minford freshman Sydney Mougey and Kellogg then traded three-pointers in the final 13 seconds, as New Lexington led 13-12.
But the Lady Falcons led for the majority of the middle two quarters — until Spicer’s three-pointer which jump-started the Lady Panthers’ putting Minford away in the last.
In addition to her 15 points to follow Spicer’s 25, Kellogg corralled nine rebounds —and made off with four steals.
Livi Shonkwiler followed Slusher’s 22 with 11 points, including two treys and 3-of-4 free throws, as Hannah Tolle tallied 10 on four field goals and 2-of-3 foul shots — to go along with her four second-quarter thefts.
Mougey mustered eight points including two threes, as she and Slusher stole the basketball three times apiece.
Makenzie Watters, with 2-of-2 fourth-quarter foul shots, rounded out the Lady Falcon scoring.
She was also Minford’s leading rebounder with nine, as Slusher and Shonkwiler wound up with seven boards apiece —and Mougey managed six.
“Not much to be said,” said Minford coach Shane Davis. “Maddie played with great effort as she has done her whole career. Livi was recovering from the flu…effort was there but she was just wore out. We saw some very good things out of freshman Sydney Mougey.”
Indeed, while Mougey is just beginning her career, it was the final tournament game for five Minford seniors: Ali Brumfield, Makayla Watters, Makenzie Watters, Slusher and Tolle.
At least the return bus trip to Minford from Valley was only a mere 15 minutes.
* * *
Minford 12 18 7 16 — 53
New Lexington 13 13 14 22— 62
MINFORD 53 (9-13)
Ally Coriell 0 0-0 0, Makayla Watters 0 0-0 0, Makenzie Watters 0 2-2 2, Livi Shonkwiler 3 3-4 11, Maddie Slusher 8 3-4 22, Hannah Tolle 4 2-3 10, Sydney Mougey 3 0-0 8; TOTALS 18 10-13 53; Three-point goals: 7 (Maddie Slusher 3, Livi Shonkwiler and Sydney Mougey 2 apiece)
NEW LEXINGTON 62 (13-10)
Kenadee Dillon 1 0-0 3, Riley Harris 1 2-2 4, Brooke Lehman 0 0-0 0, Emma Abrams 1 4-6 6, Kim Kellogg 5 3-5 15, Megan Skillman 2 2-2 6, Lydia Stephens 1 0-0 3, Aubri Spicer 12 0-0 25; TOTALS 23 11-15 62; Three-point goals: 5 (Kim Kellogg 2, Kenadee Dillon, Lydia Stephens and Aubri Spicer 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