PITSBURG – Points weren’t easy to come by Thursday evening, but the Arcanum girls scored enough to defeat Northwestern 36-24 and advance to the sectional finals of the Ohio High School Athletic Association tournament.
Arcanum, which averaged 53 points per game during the regular season, got some good looks on Thursday but just couldn’t get as many shots as usual to go in.
“It was a little rough,” Arcanum girls basketball coach Matt Grote said. “Got out to a 14-7 lead, ball was going into the basket pretty decent in the first quarter then shots didn’t fall. Got open looks like we wanted.”
Northwestern started the game with a 3-0 lead before Arcanum went on a 6-0 run with points from Gracie Garno and Kaitlyn Zell, which gave the Trojans a lead they held the rest of the night.
Stevie Johnting and Brittany Kinney then knocked down 3-pointers late in the first quarter while Elle Siculan added a pair of free throws to put Arcanum up 14-7 at the end of the frame.
A 3-pointer by McKenzie Sharritts put Arcanum up by double digits early in the second quarter, but then the Trojans started to go cold. They only managed one more basket by Johnting the rest of the period but with a strong defensive effort went into halftime up 19-11.
“Pretty solid defensive effort,” Grote said. “Held their best player to 15 when she’s averaging about 21 on the season. That was big for us.”
Northwestern started the third quarter on a 7-0 run to cut Arcanum’s lead to a single point, but Arcanum recovered and scored 9 of the next 13 points with contributions from Kayla O’Daniel, Siculan, Garno and Camille Pohl to lead 28-22 at the end of the quarter.
With baskets from Sharritts, Pohl and Johnting, Arcanum increased its lead in the fourth quarter and beat Northwestern by 12 points, 36-24.
Johnting led Arcanum with 8 points on Thursday. Also for the Trojans, Sharritts scored 6 points, Siculan scored 5, Garno scored 4, Pohl scored 4, Zell scored 4, Kinney scored 3, and O’Daniel scored 2.
Though they didn’t have a player with a big offensive night in the sectional semifinal, the balanced scoring attack is a big asset for the Trojans, Grote said.
“Stevie’s normally our leading scorer,” he said. “She gets to the hole, makes some shots. But lately if she struggles at all we’ve got some other girls that are stepping up, putting the ball in the basket. That’s what we need tournament time. It’s not just the one-girl show. Everybody can come in and put the ball in the basket when we need to, and it makes us a lot harder to guard.”
Abby Zerkle led Northwestern with a game-high 15 points. Also for the Warriors, Abbie Grieser scored 4 points, Kyndall Berner scored 2, Miranda Gillman scored 2, and Bry White scored 1.
Arcanum now advances to play for a sectional championship at 2 p.m. Saturday at Franklin Monroe.
“This time of year it’s survive and advance,” Grote said. “Looking back, this senior group got to a sectional final as freshmen. They didn’t get it done so they want to finish it out. They want to get the job done, get to a sectional and move on to districts. That’s the goal right now.”
Kyle Shaner may be reached at 937-569-4316. Follow me on Twitter @KShanerAdvocate or get updates on Facebook by searching Darke County Sports or Advocate 360. For more features online go to dailyadvocate.com.