Lady Mohawks lose in sectional final to Oaks

By Paul Boggs - [email protected]

Northwest senior Keirah Potts is defended by Oak Hill’s Olivia Clarkson during Saturday’s Division III girls basketball sectional championship game at Valley High School.

Northwest senior Keirah Potts is defended by Oak Hill’s Olivia Clarkson during Saturday’s Division III girls basketball sectional championship game at Valley High School.

Courtesy of Laci Timmons

LUCASVILLE — Unfortunately for the Lady Mohawks, they became the latest 12-5 upset.

As is always the case with the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, you can rest assured that a number-12 seed will defeat a number-5 seed somewhere within the four corners of the bracket — and often times busting it wide open.

On Saturday, as Northwest struggled offensively against a familiar foe in the Oak Hill Lady Oaks, the fifth-seeded Lady Mohawks — despite charging back twice —could never quite catch up and seize the lead.

As a result, in their third and final — and most important — meeting of the season, the 12th-seeded Lady Oaks knocked Northwest out of the Division III postseason tournament, winning 52-42 in a sectional championship tilt at Valley High School.

Ah yes, or oh no, it was that dreaded “12-over-a-5” game that gets all the interested observers talking.

And, this one had added intrigue —given the fact that Northwest won the first two matchups in the Southern Ohio Conference Division II.

In the league opener, back on Black Friday, Northwest sophomore Reagan Lewis landed the game-winning shot with four seconds remaining to lift the Lady Mohawks to a 46-45 victory at Oak Hill.

The Lady Mohawks then completed the regular-season sweep, capturing another defensive-oriented affair 36-30 at Northwest High School on Jan. 9.

However, the Lady Mohawks — left to their own devices — may have preferred not to face the Lady Oaks a third time, or at least not in the sectional championship round.

With the Southeast District utilizing — for the first time — a super-sectional format for the sectional and district tournaments, the 31 Division III squads were seeded first thru 31st.

As luck, or fate, would have it —Northwest drew the fifth seed but also saw Oak Hill appear as the 12th.

And, perhaps the basketball gods were working against Northwest even more —when the Lady Mohawks, due to the early February flu outbreak in which the district’s schools were closed — didn’t play for two entire weeks until Thursday’s sectional semifinal win over Crooksville.

Northwest was able to get a game under its belt, but rust still remained —and the Lady Mohawks had their fair share of struggling shooting on Saturday against a good defensive Oak Hill club.

All of those factors finally added up in Northwest’s loss, which left it with an 18-4 record and with two SOC II makeup matchups remaining —including against visiting Minford on Monday night.

“It was one of those days when the ball didn’t bounce our way. We were horrible scoring in the paint, we missed half of our free throws which we usually do better on. The girls worked the offense and we got the shots we wanted, but just didn’t take advantage of them,” said Northwest coach Dave Frantz. “If we would have made half of our bunny shots and free throws, we’re winning. And I’m not going to use not playing for two weeks as an excuse, but it didn’t help us. The shooting just wasn’t there today.”

Northwest shot 15-of-47 from the field for 32-percent, including only 4-of-14 from three-point range for 29-percent, and committed 11 turnovers —where against Oak Hill there is very little to no margin for error.

A lot of the misses were from point-blank range, as the Lady Mohawks fell behind 18-7 following the opening quarter —and despite surging back with a 14-4 run over the next nine minutes —Northwest was never able to overtake Oak Hill.

In fact, the Lady Oaks amounted a 14-4 run of their own over the final seven minutes of the third frame —punctuated by Brooke Howard’s rim-rattling three that somehow spun itself all the way down through the basket to beat the buzzer.

With another quarter’s-end advantage of 11 points (36-25), the Lady Oaks weathered another Northwest storm —this one of seven unanswered points over the first 3:54 of the fourth period, which included Haidyn Wamsley’s second of her three trifectas, Valerie Copas’ final field goal, and a rebound putback by sole senior Keirah Potts.

But Oliva Clarkson, who finished with 13 points on five field goals and 2-of-2 fourth-quarter free throws, scored at the 3:40 mark —followed by an old-fashioned three-point play by Oak Hill senior standout, and again Northwest nemesis, Caitlyn Brisker with 2:19 remaining.

That made it 41-32, as Brisker — who poured in a game-high 27 points with seven field goals — began her personal parade to the free-throw line, drilling 9-of-10 over the final 2:19 and part of 10-of-11 overall.

Northwest — on a pair of Potts free throws (43-34) with Wamsley’s final trey (46-37) and a deuce (48-39) — got to within nine three times, but got no closer.

Potts popped a three-pointer from the corner with 22 seconds remaining for the 52-42 final, giving her a dozen points in the final tournament tilt of her career.

Northwest never gave up, said Frantz, as that just simply isn’t its makeup.

The Mohawks just fell behind early and played catch-up all the way, something that is extremely difficult to do against Oak Hill and veteran and highly-successful head coach Doug Hale.

“Not at one point in the game did I get nervous that we weren’t going to come back. The girls I have here are not quitters and they don’t know what it’s like to quit. They are going to fight back and we did. We just didn’t get over the hump,” said Frantz. “We knew Doug (Hale) would have them (Lady Oaks) ready, and we weren’t intimidated. We knew what we had to do, but Oak Hill just did it better than we did.”

Nobody, quite frankly, did it better than Brisker.

Northwest knows all about her, as the sure-fire all-Southeast District first-teamer went off for 30 of the Lady Oaks’ 45 points in the initial meeting.

This time, she accounted for half (27) of their 52 markers, lighting the Lady Mohawks up from the field before doing so late from the line.

The Lady Mohawks held their only lead at 2-0 — right off the opening tip as Potts posted a basket.

But Clarkson connected on a three-pointer to put the Lady Oaks in front, as Brisker bucketed a two-pointer to make it 7-4 at the 3:18 mark of the first quarter— before splashing her three trifectas in the final two-and-a-half minutes of the period.

Even with the Lady Mohawks’ top defender — Ava Jenkins — draped all over her, Brisker banged big shot after big shot, with her third three beating the buzzer and pushing the Lady Oaks out to an 18-7 lead.

Brisker shot 6-of-14 from the field, including 3-of-5 on threes.

“Caitlyn Brisker showed once again why she is one of the best players in this entire area,” said Frantz. “Ava Jenkins was frustrated because she couldn’t guard that girl any better, and she was still hitting. That’s just a tribute to her.”

Brisker also dished out five assists, as Howard had seven points on a first-quarter layup, her third-quarter three-ball, and a pair of fourth-quarter foul shots.

Chloe Chambers chipped in five points on two buckets and a split of free throws — and also grabbed 10 rebounds.

The Oaks meshed an impressive 15-of-17 from the foul line, whereas the Lady Mohawks made only 8-of-15, as Oak Hill shot 16-of-40 from the field for an even 40-percent.

But, only four of its 52 markers came in the second stanza —field goals by Brisker and Clarkson.

The Lady Mohawks —jump-started by Wamsley’s first three and two baskets by Valerie Copas —cut the deficit to 22-18 at halftime, and finally got to within one at 22-21 on a Copas free throw and a Wamsley baseline jumper in the opening minute of the third.

However, the now 15-8 Lady Oaks outscored Northwest 30-21 over the final 15 minutes, punching their ticket to Thursday night’s Division III district semifinal —against fourth-seeded Southeastern at 8 p.m. at Waverly’s Downtown Arena.

Wamsley — with five field goals and 3-of-4 free throws —paced the Lady Mohawks with 16 points, as Potts put in 12 and Copas chipped in 10.

Both had four field goals apiece, as Potts made three foul shots and Copas two.

Jenkins in the first quarter and Kloe Montgomery in the third added a field goal apiece.

Potts and Wamsley were the Lady Mohawks’ leading rebounders with eight boards each.

Speaking of eight, Frantz felt the Lady Oaks were indeed under-seeded, as he voted them in the eight-spot.

“I knew how good they are, because we played two exceptional games with them in the league just to finish second in the league,” he said. “They are a very good team. They were hitting today from the field and the foul line and we weren’t.”

Which is what it ultimately boils down to, and makes for those 12-over-5 “upsets” like Saturday’s so common.

Frantz praised Potts and his Lady Mohawks for the quality season they’ve had.

“I’ve coached Keirah for three-and-a-half years. She has been there since the first day I took the program over. She’s our senior leader and she means a lot to me. She’s a great kid and gives great effort each night. We will miss her in our program. All of the kids are hurting. This is a tough loss. But at the beginning of the season, if you would have said we would have lost to Oak Hill in a sectional final and with a chance at being 20-4…,” said the coach. “I couldn’t be more proud of a bunch of girls. They never once quit and they won’t quit and they are great kids. There was never a lack of effort or lack of belief. There’s not a locker-room in the state of Ohio that I would rather be sitting in than the one I was just sitting in right now.”

* * *

Oak Hill 18 4 14 16 — 52

Northwest 7 11 7 17 —42

OAK HILL 52 (15-8)

Baylee Howell 0 0-0 0, Tamron McCain 0 0-0 0, Chloe Chambers 2 1-2 5, Caitlyn Brisker 7 10-11 27, Baylee Howard 0 0-0 0, Shannon Conley 0 0-0 0, Brooke Howard 2 2-2 7, Peyton Miller 0 0-0 0, Olivia Clarkson 5 2-2 13, Jordan Howard 0 0-0 0; TOTALS 16 15-17 52; Three-point goals: 5 (Caitlyn Brisker 3, Brooke Howard and Olivia Clarkson 1 apiece)

NORTHWEST 42 (18-4)

Terah Webb 0 0-0 0, Valerie Copas 4 2-5 10, Haidyn Wamsley 5 3-4 16, Keirah Potts 4 3-6 12, Ava Jenkins 1 0-0 2, Reagan Lewis 0 0-0 0, Kloe Montgomery 1 0-0 2; TOTALS 15 8-15 42; Three-point goals: 4 (Haidyn Wamsley 3, Keirah Potts 1)

Northwest senior Keirah Potts is defended by Oak Hill’s Olivia Clarkson during Saturday’s Division III girls basketball sectional championship game at Valley High School. senior Keirah Potts is defended by Oak Hill’s Olivia Clarkson during Saturday’s Division III girls basketball sectional championship game at Valley High School. Courtesy of Laci Timmons

By Paul Boggs

[email protected]

Reach Paul Boggs at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1926, by email at [email protected], or on Twitter @BoggsSports © 2020 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved

Reach Paul Boggs at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1926, by email at [email protected], or on Twitter @BoggsSports © 2020 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved