ARCANUM – If you didn’t know any better, you would have thought the Tri-Village and Arcanum girls basketball teams were battling for a league championship on Thursday night.
In reality, the Patriots wrapped up the Cross County Conference title several games ago, but needed a win over the host Trojans to complete a perfect season in league play. Despite Arcanum’s will and determination in making Tri-Village earn every point, it was the Patriots who prevailed 57-45 to close out league play at 12-0.
“It was a nice win tonight,” TVHS coach Brad Gray said. “I give Arcanum all kinds of credit. They really battled us and made this a difficult win. The final score really doesn’t indicate how tough this game really was, but to our kids’ credit I thought we battled some adversity with foul trouble early with both our bigs and having to sit both of them a good portion of the first half. Obviously that took a toll on us, but it helped that we were able to keep them both on the floor for the whole second half.
“It is nice to be undefeated in the league,” he continued. “If you would have told me before the year started that the conference champion this year would have had no losses I wouldn’t have believed that. I really thought that this year was probably the toughest the conference has been since I have been the head coach here at Tri-Village. I certainly didn’t expect us to run the table in the conference with Porter being out. That is a big loss for us, so I am just ecstatic. I’m really happy the kids have pulled through and they really stepped up in her absence. They are playing really well especially right now which is when you want to be playing well. Hopefully we can keep it going into the season that really matters.”
Tri-Village opened the game on fire offensively jumping out to a 16-5 lead before Arcanum rallied for a 7-2 run in the final minute-plus of the quarter to make the score 18-12 after the first eight minutes of the game. Senior Emma Printz was a big catalyst for the Lady Patriots in that opening frame as she connected on two 3-pointer and a free throw to score 7 of her 10 total game points.
“Emma was hot in the first half,” Gray said. “She has been shooting it really well for us lately. The last three games she has gotten off to a really hot starts and we need that from her. We know she is capable of that and it doesn’t surprise us to see her shoot the ball like that. Hopefully, she can keep it going. This is the time of year when you need your kids clicking and right now it seems like we are.”
But the scoring went cold in the second quarter. Neither team scored a single point in the first four-plus minutes, but with 3:44 to go before halftime Arcanum freshman Madelyn Fearon got one to fall from behind the arc and that pulled the Trojans to within three at 18-15. Freshman post player Taylor Gray then got a bankshot to fall for Arcanum to cut Tri-Village’s lead to one at 18-17 – the closest they had been since the tip off. A few seconds later Tri-Village’s Maddie Downing mirrored what Gray had just done to stretch her teams’ lead back to three points at 20-17, but Arcanum junior Camille Pohl drove in for a layup about a minute after that to cut the lead to one point again at 20-19. A few seconds later, Printz nailed her third triple of the game for the final points of the half as Tri-Village went into the break with a 23-19 lead.
“We made some adjustments in how we come off our transition in the second quarter,” Arcanum coach Michael Dean said. “We went from a different kind of half-court press to where we can feed a little easier to our wings. Our kids stepped it up and we made some shots and I couldn’t be prouder of my kids. They worked hard tonight. They faced a tough team the other night in Versailles and played them strong and then came in here tonight and they did not let up.
“We knew we were going to be in a battle because that is a good team over there,” he continued. “Brad Gray is a great coach and they have a good program down there and some good players too. I look forward to playing them over the next few years because he still has some young girls and we have young girls.”
The third quarter began with Arcanum carrying over the momentum it had at the end of the first half with a deuce by Gracie Garno at the 7:35 mark to make it 23-21 in favor of Tri-Village. The Lady Patriots answered with a layup by Lissa Siler and the two teams traded buckets again with Kayla O’Daniel connecting for Arcanum followed by a score from Meghan Downing to make it 27-24 TV’s advantage. Pohl scored for Arcanum with 4:47 left in the third quarter to get within one again at 27-26, but that would be the last points the Lady Trojans would get until the opening seconds of the fourth quarter as Tri-Village closed out the third frame on a 6-0 run to go up 33-26, its largest lead since the first quarter.
“I thought we got away from playing smart basketball in the second quarter,” Gray said. “We were taking too many quick long shots and not getting enough post touches, but we were able to fix that in the second half and to me played pretty smart basketball.
“When we went to the man-to-man defense about midway through the third quarter that really changed the tide of the game,” he continued. “That is when we kind of started to gain a little ground. I thought we were able top locate their shooters a little better and put a little more pressure on their ball handlers and make them uncomfortable, and I thought our guards did a good job in the second half of really finding the mismatches inside.”
After being held to a combined 6 points in the first half, the Downing sisters – Meghan and Maddie – took control of the game by scoring 24 points together in the final two periods. Meghan finished with a game-high 19 points and Maddie had 11.
“We are a much better shooting team when our shots are coming from inside-out passes rather than outside-out passes,” Gray said. “We just got away from that in the second quarter. The first quarter our shots were more inside-out looks where our kids were already squared to the basket and all they had to do was catch and shoot. We just had a brain cramp in the second quarter I guess and got away from doing things that were effective for us. We were grouped third quarter and fourth quarter and I felt we re-established the inside game.”
Two other Tri-Village players scored in double figure as well. Printz and Siler each had 10 for the game.
For Arcanum, while they never got as close as one point again, they never were too far out of it until they had to start fouling in the final two minutes. From the 1:10 mark of the fourth quarter, Tri-Village scored 11 points including going 8-for-12 at the free throw line while the Trojans were only able to notch 6 points. The Trojans were led by Fearon with 10 points. Garno had 9 followed by O’Daniel with 8 and Pohl with 7.
“To me I thought we were in it the whole time up until that last minute or so,” Dean said. “I think that is when we had no choice but to start fouling and you know that’s how those games go unfortunately. They have two big kids there with the Downing sisters who are great athletes. In that second half they outrebounded us and got the fouls they needed from us to get to the line.
“I’ll tell you what Maddie Fearon is a player,” he continued. “That’s all I have to say. She is a player – heart, soul, athleticism, everything. She is that kid when we finish two hours of practice she is in here for another 30-40 minutes shooting and it shows. Everything she does is with determination. I got several other girls who are starting to feed off of that and they are starting to understand they have to give that extra. To challenge others you have to be challenging yourself and she does it all the time. Great effort by her tonight. And Camille Pohl … in the first half she gave the Downing girls everything they could handle. She is not that kid that gives you 20 points a game, but what she does give you is leadership on the floor. She surveys things beautifully and she gives you what you need when you need it. She had some nice steals there and some breakaways that allowed us to score in that second quarter and really, really helped us stay close and make it competitive all the way down to the fourth quarter.”
It was also Senior Night for the Trojans, who recognized three seniors – Sasha Derringer, Mady Richards and Macey Hartman.
“My three seniors gave us the energy at the start of the game,” Dean said. “This is their night. We talked about that in the locker room coming in and the younger girls fed off that energy. They think the world of those three seniors.”
Tri-Village has two regular season games left on its schedule beginning with a trip to Fort Recovery on Saturday. Arcanum opens tournament action against Jamestown Greeneview with a 6 p.m. tip off on Feb. 13 at Covington.
Score by quarters
Tri-Village – Emma Printz 3 1 10, Meghan Downing 7 5 19, Peyton Bietry 1 0 2, Andi Bietry 0 5 5, Lissa Siler 3 3 10, Maddie Downing 5 1 11. Totals: 19 15 57.
Arcanum – Gracie Garno 3 1 9, Camille Pohl 3 1 7, Madelyn Fearon 4 0 10, Hailey Unger 1 1 3, Kayla O’Daniel 3 1 8, Taylor Gray 1 0 2, Elliana Sloan 2 0 6. Totals: 17 4 45.
3-pointers – Tri-Village 4 (Printz 3, Siler 1), Arcanum 7 (Garno 2, Fearon 2, Sloan 2, O’Daniel 1)
Records: Tri-Village (19-1, 12-0 CCC), Arcanum (14-8, 8-4 CCC).
The Daily Advocate sports editor Skip Weaver can be reached at (937) 569-4316 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also follow him on Twitter at @skipweaver65.