TIPP CITY — Arcanum played with a spark on Tuesday that it had been missing in recent weeks, defeating Dixie 64-51 to advance in the Ohio High School Athletic Association girls basketball tournament.
In the Lady Trojans’ second game of the postseason tournament, coach Rachel Fearon said they played their best game since a 57-45 win against Tri-Village on Jan. 23.
“We just have not had that spark since we played Tri-Village,” the Arcanum girls basketball coach said. “As a coach you just want it to come back, and I do feel like we had it tonight. We still had mistakes, and I don’t feel like we played to that caliber that we played against Tri-Village, but I mean, maybe we’re taking steps there.”
Arcanum, the fourth seed in the Tippecanoe sectional, never trailed on Tuesday against fifth-seeded Dixie.
After Alexis Abner’s early basket was matched by Dixie, Stevie Johnting made a 3-pointer that gave Arcanum a lead it held the rest of the game. Baskets by Abby Ross and Abbey O’Donnell helped the Trojans lead 10-8 at the end of the first quarter.
Arcanum came out strong in the second quarter with Rebecca Deao, O’Donnell and Abner combining to lead the Trojans on an 8-0 to begin the period.
“Second quarter we stepped it up,” Fearon said. “I was proud of the girls the way they came out and played defense in that second quarter.”
Dixie got its offense going midway through the period and cut the deficit to 20-17, but points from Abner, Deao and Brittany Kinney helped the Trojans maintain the lead.
Arcanum got an extra bump at the end of the second quarter as Johnting drained a buzzer beating 3-pointer from midcourt to give the Lady Trojans a 28-19 halftime lead.
“That shot going into halftime, that was big for us to put us up to nine points but not only that but the momentum that carried us into the locker room,” Fearon said. “That was a great momentum changer for us.”
Dixie had its best offensive output of the night in the third quarter, scoring 22 points, but Arcanum matched the Greyhounds along the way. Abner, O’Donnell, Johnting and Ross all scored in the quarter to help the Trojans overcome some shaky defense.
Dixie did score the final four points of the quarter to cut Arcanum’s lead to 48-41.
The Greyhounds continued to play well early in the fourth quarter, cutting the Trojans’ lead to one possession at 50-47.
O’Donnell, one of Arcanum’s two seniors, then took over. She scored Arcanum’s first 10 points of the fourth quarter to help them pull away.
“Abbey, she knows, this is her senior year, and when that buzzer goes off and we’re not up, she knows it’s the end of playing high school ball,” Fearon said. “Tonight it came out and it showed that she’s not ready for it to be over.”
After O’Donnell lifted the lead back to nine points at 58-49, Abner then scored the final six points for Arcanum in a 64-51 win.
O’Donnell led Arcanum with a game-high 24 points. Also for the Lady Trojans, Abner scored 19 points, Johnting scored 11, Deao scored four, Kinney scored three, and Ross scored three.
“Scoring-wise, my kids are doing a great job of evening out the scoring,” Fearon said. “I just feel like if somebody lacks one night then there’s somebody else to pick them up.”
Kylie Hundley led Dixie with 21 points in the loss. Also for the Greyhounds, Abby Bertke scored 14 points, Cassidy Shell scored six, Ashley Leis scored five, Amara Wylie scored four, and Katie Honeywell scored one.
Arcanum now advances to play second-seeded Versailles for the sectional championship at 7:30 p.m. today at Tippecanoe. The teams played on Dec. 7, which was a 56-43 Versailles victory.
“The biggest thing I think against Versailles is we’ve got to just make sure and protect the ball,” Fearon said. “My kids can handle it, but throwing over the top does not work against Versailles.”