JACKSON, Ohio — The lady Jeeps wasted little time distinguishing themselves as the superior team Saturday. After building a 14-point lead at the intermission, the second 16 minutes of play were a mere formality.
The end result of the Jeeps’ dominant performance is a trip to the district finals as No. 1 South Webster beat the fourth-seeded Southern Tornadoes 57-35 in their Division IV District Semifinal match at Jackson High School.
Jeeps head coach Kristie Johnson believes her team is playing its best at the most crucial time of the season.
“Right now we are playing well and you always want to be playing well at tournament time,” Johnson said. “Our goal this week was to get ready to play our best today, and to represent our community and to make our fans proud of us, proud of our program and proud to be part of the entire community.”
Senior guard Kacie Hall, who scored a game-high 17 points, is eager to play in her second consecutive district finals game. Last season, South Webster beat Manchester 57-22 before bowing out of the tournament to Waterford in the regional semifinals.
“I’m very excited for the opportunity to be back here,” Hall said.
Johnson said a district championship has been one of the team’s goals since the start of the season.
“We’re thrilled,” Johnson said. “And I’ve always said it before, our goal is to have a long tournament run. Our girls are focused. It’s always different when you have a group of seniors because they are at the realization that there is no next year.
“I think they are focused and wanting it more than ever. We are taking it one game at a time because on any given night, anyone can get beat. Hopefully we’ll be able to bring our game back on Thursday and get another net.”
Although South Webster beat Southern by 22 points, Hall is looking for a more complete performance in the finals.
“We just have to stay focused,” Hall said. “We play much better as a team. We just have to stay together, play hard, never give up and value every possession. We want to keep pushing ourselves. Our goal is to play a complete game because that’s what it takes to win a district title and advance through regionals.”
Johnson believes she has a more dangerous team this year as she has several players capable of filling up the score sheet. Against Southern, the Jeeps had three players reach double figures. Besides Hall’s 17, Ellie Jo Johnson and Cheyenne Weakley scored 13 apiece.
However, despite the plethora of options offensively, Johnson knows the Jeeps’ calling card is their defensive prowess.
“Anyone can have a bad night and other people have to step up. With this team, I feel like we have many other options that can step up when someone’s having a bad night. We know we are going to have nights where we can’t shoot but we can never have a night where we do a bad job on defense,” Johnson said.
“My favorite saying is if we keep a team from scoring, all we have to do is score one. Our defensive game can’t change. That’s what we focus on the most and then we worry about offense. We’ve got several scorers this year that can step up. We’ve had four of our five starters score 18 or more in a game this season.”
The district championship will be held Thursday at Jackson High School. Tipoff is scheduled for 8:00 p.m.
Southern 8 8 11 7 — 35
South Webster 19 11 12 15 — 57
Southern — Hill 3-0-7, Deen 1-0-3, Wolfe 2-2-6, Cleland 4-3-13, Clunduff 1-0-2.
South Webster — E. Johnson 6-6-13, Hall 5-4-17, Stamper 1-0-2, K. Johnson 2-0-4, Weakley 5-2-13, Cook 2-3-8.
Three-point field goals — Southern 4 (Hill, Deen, Cleland 2); South Webster 6 (E. Johnson, Hall 3, Weakley, Cook)
Reach Chris Slone at 740-353-3101, ext 1930, or on Twitter @crslone.