By Drew Terhall
VANDALIA — After some early struggles, the Lady Patriots basketball team regrouped and defeated Butler 44-33 on the road on Feb. 7.
Head coach Brad Gray said Butler came out and hit them in the mouth. The team took the early blow and got right back into the game with their defense.
“I’m proud of our kids, they kind of stuck with it. I thought defensively, the second half, we were outstanding,” Gray said. “The way our kids responded defensively in the second half, we have to be able to do that. We’ve been talking to our kids about how important it is that we really buy in to the defensive end of the floor.”
Butler led 16-8 after the first quarter. In the first 2:30 of the second quarter, Tri-Village went on an 8-0 run to tie the game. Both teams battled the rest of the way to grab and try to sustain a lead.
Tri-Village senior Kiersten Wilcox made a mid-range shot to tie the game with seconds left in the game. Butler senior Natalie Schoenherr got an open look for three and hit it at the buzzer to give the Lady Aviators a 25-22 lead at halftime.
Gray said the team has to hang their hat on defense as the offense continues to grow and improve. He also said they can’t expect to be competitive in most games if they give up 25 points in the first half.
Both teams exchanged runs in the third quarter. The Lady Patriots came out of halftime and went on a run. The Lady Aviators responded with a run to tie the game.
Both teams struggled all game with turnovers and missing some open shots. The game could have been worse for either team if the opposing team could make more of their open shots.
The Lady Patriots did enough to get a 32-29 lead heading into the fourth quarter. Then it was time for the Tri-Village defense to truly make their mark.
They held Butler to four points in the fourth quarter. They sent Butler to the free throw line only once and only allowed two made baskets.
Sophomore Adalynn Hines made a few plays defensively to start some transition offense for Tri-Village. Gray said Hines is one of their most athletic and faster players on the team and has a sense for where the ball is going to be. She gave Butler ball handlers problems whether she was guarding them or disrupting passing lanes.
Wilcox made another big shot in the game as she drained a three in the fourth quarter. Gray said Wilcox doesn’t shoot it often, but is efficient and effective when she does shoot.
“She does that in practice. She does hit shots. When she’s open, when she has time to get her feet under her, she’s a consistent shot maker,” Gray said.
Gray also said the offense played better when they were able to play through sophomore Kynnedi Hager down low. With the attention she draws, she can get the ball to a wide open player for an open shot. When defenders try to cheat and take away that pass, Hager can get to the rim and finish.
The team was able to create separation late in the fourth quarter from the free throw line. The team was 7 for 9 from the line in the fourth quarter. Gray said hitting those free throws was huge, but somewhat expected from his team.
“Once we got that lead, they had to come after us a little more aggressively. We shoot free throws well. We’re over 70% for the year as a team. We expect when we get to the line, it’s going to be good for us. I would like to see us get there a little more,” Gray said.
In the game, the Lady Patriots were 11 for 13 from the free throw line.
Hager led the team with 12 points and sophomore Tai Mize had 10 points.
Tri-Village is 17-3 on the season with a 10-0 WOAC record. They will play Twin Valley South on Feb. 8 at home with a 7:15 p.m. tip off. A win would give the Lady Patriots their third straight WOAC title and their third straight year of going undefeated in WOAC play.
They will end the regular season with a home game against Bellbrook at 2:15 p.m.
Contact Daily Advocate sports editor Drew Terhall at [email protected]