WILMINGTON — Win first conference title in 37 years, check. Play in a district tournament game for the first time in 30 years, check, thanks to a 50-47 squeaker over Madeira in a Division III girls tournament game at Wilmington High School Saturday.
“The girls love it when I’m speechless, because they say I talk too much, but it’s hard to grasp right now,” East Clinton head coach Bill Bean said about being among the remaining 32 teams in the state in Division III and a game away from a berth in the Sweet 16. “Our motto kind of was ‘We want to go Springfield,’ and we’ve made it to Springfield.
“It’s a great feeling right now. Our girls basketball program has not been in a district game since 1992. They’ve made a lot of history this year.”
The Astros will play Camden Preble Shawnee at Springfield High School Saturday, Feb. 26, at a time to be determined. Preble Shawnee upset state-ranked No. 5 Arcanum 70-62 Saturday night.
East Clinton survived a height-disadvantage Saturday unlike any they’ve seen all year.
“That’s probably as big of a team we’ve played all year,” Bean said about Madeira. “Their bigs are pretty decent. There were some times they got some open looks. There were a few possessions where our backside help was maybe a half-second slow getting there. I thought, for the most part, we did a decent job against their bigs.
“If you had told me we’d hold (Sammy Welty) to 11 points, I would take that, and I would’ve thought we would win.”
Mary Hartung led Madeira with 14 points.
The Astros (19-5), which have only been in three single-digit games all year (losses to Wilmington and Waynesville and an overtime win versus Cedarville), also had to survive a nail-biter.
Madeira’s largest lead was 20-13 after an 8-0 spurt that also came during a nearly 12-minute stretch without an Astro field goal. East Clinton’s biggest cushion was 48-43 with 65 seconds left in the game. There were 14 lead changes throughout the contest, including three during a 34-second span of the fourth quarter.
“We have not been a situation where you have to step to the line and hit your free throws when it’s money time,” Bean said. “But these kids are competitors, and I thought they would step up and hit them and they did.”
EC hit 5-of-6 at the charity stripe after that to hold off Madeira (15-8). Madeira hung close with a Mary Hartung three that made it 48-46 Astros with 42.7 seconds left and a Welty free throw that made it 48-47 Astros with 38.9 seconds to go in the contest.
“We said we would take nothing but a wide-open layup (in the last 65 seconds),” Bean said. “We’re going to make them foul us; we’ve shot free throws pretty well all year. We’re up five, if we make free throws, they can’t catch us.”
Madeira had the ball for the game’s final 34.4 seconds, calling a timeout with 14.2 seconds to go, but could only manage an errant game-tying three-point attempt at the five-second mark.
Libby Evanshine led the Astros with 15 points. Teammate Jayden Murphy joined her in double-figures.
Murphy hit two threes late in the first half to cut Madeira’s advantage from 20-13 to 20-19 entering the intermission. She also hit another big three that tied the game at 34-34 in the final minute of the third period, had a timely assist on Jozie Jones’ bucket to put the Astros up 38-34 in the first minute of the final quarter, and hit both of her free throws during EC’s parade to the free throw line to finish the game.
“We’ve talked about making it to the district game. Maybe we need to talk about adjusting our goal to say win that district game,” Bean said. “We’re going to work hard this week and get ready to go. They’re excited about preparing. We’re going to give it their all. That’s the type of kids they are, 1 through 13. We’ll try to prepare the best we can and go up there and give it our shot.”
February 19, 2022
@Fred Summers Court
East Clinton 50 Madeira 47
(50) MADEIRA (fg-ft-tp) Hemmerick 0-1-1, Abrams 2-4-9, Hartung 5-1-14, Benintendi 4-0-10, Welty 4-3-11, Dunn 0-2-2, Prus 0-0-0. Total 15-9-47. 3-point goals: 8 (Hartung 3, Benintendi 2, Dunn 2, Abrams). FTM-FTA 11-21, 52 percent.
(50) EAST CLINTON (fg-ft-tp) Collom 1-3-5, Evanshine 5-4-15, Whiteaker 1-0-2, Runyon 1-0-2, Lilly 4-3-11, Tong 0-0-0, Jones 2-0-4, Murphy 3-2-11. Total 17-12-50. 3-point goals: 4 (Murphy 3, Evanshine). FTM-FTA 12-15, 80 percent.