BLANCHESTER — Undaunted about nearly blowing a 14-point second half lead, the Blanchester girls basketball team fought off a charging Bethel-Tate squad to claim the school’s first league championship since 1989.
The Ladycats got a huge three from Tristan Culberson with 48 seconds to play and then two clutch free throws with 8.6 second remaining from Sarah Burton to hold on for a 46-45 win over Bethel-Tate in a Southern Buckeye Conference National Division game at a raucous BHS gym.
“These girls have worked pretty darn hard,” said BHS coach Bennie Carroll. “For these senior girls, especially, they’ve been through some tough seasons but they’ve hung in there. They’re a good bunch of kids. They’re deserving of winning one. I’m happy they carried me along for the ride.”
The win gives Blanchester (17-3 overall, 8-1 in the SBCN) no less than a share of the National Division crown. Bethel-Tate falls out of first and is now 11-8 overall and 7-2 in league play.
The Ladycats will host Georgetown Thursday night in the National Division finale. A win would give BHS the league title outright. Blanchester last won a girls basketball league championship in 1989.
“It’s been a long time coming,” said Carroll, in his first year as the varsity girls coach at BHS.
Burton had a huge game for Blan, leading the team in each category — 19 points, seven rebounds, three assists, three steals and a block.
Culberson finished with 11 points, six rebounds and two steals. Emma Gundler came off the bench with two points and three key assists in the opening period when Blanchester jumped out to a 14-11 lead.
“When we played them down there the first time, we struggled offensively all night long,” Carroll said. “Sarah hit a couple baskets early tonight that took the edge off and we could settle down and play.”
Marissa Doughman and Savanna Greene both had stickback baskets early in the second as the Ladycats began to pull away, 27-18 at the half.
But the Lady Tigers were not going down without a battle. Julia Jenike, who led all scorers with 22 points, carried, almost willed Bethel-Tate back into this one. She had five points in the third, including a huge three at the buzzer that bounced off the glass then three times off the rim before falling through. That made it 38-32 Blanchester with just one quarter to play.
“I knew it would be a war, they’re pretty good,” Carroll said. “Jenike is a load and they have some other girls that are talented and aggressive.
“I thought the shot she (Jenike) hit at the end of the third quarter put some game pressure on us. We had the ball and that could have put us up double digits but we lost it. I figured we’d have to weather a storm or two and we did. We came back and kept battlin’, battlin.’”
Jenike hit the first two of the fourth, 38-34, but Culberson drained a run-stopping three to make it 41-34. Bethel-Tate put together six straight points to get with 41-40 with 2:44 to play.
Despite two Blanchester turnovers, Bethel-Tate was unable to get in front. BHS forced a five-second call and responded at the other end with Burton assisted on Culberson’s nothing-but-net three with 48 seconds to play. Instead of holding the ball and running out the clock, as some might have thought, BHS led 44-40.
“We didn’t really design that (three-pointer), but I was OK with her shooting that,” said Carroll. “It was a wide open three and I didn’t think we could hold it the rest of the way.”
With 10.1 seconds left, Jenike drained a pair of free throws to get the Tigers with 44-42. Burton, though, capped the championship night with a pair of free throws with 8.6 seconds remaining. Jenike did make a three-pointer in the waning seconds but BHS didn’t even in-bound the ball as time expired.
“I won’t say that’s the best we can play, but it’s close,” said Carroll.
Feb 1, 2016
@Blanchester HS gym
Blanchester 46 Bethel-Tate
(46) BLANCHESTER (fg-3fg-ft-tp) Culberson 4-3-0-11 Doyle 0-0-2-2 Burton 6-2-5-19 Doughman 1-0-0-2 Dugger 2-0-0-4 Greene 2-0-0-4 E. Gundler 1-0-0-2 Miller 0-0-0-0 Baldwin 0-0-0-0. TOTALS 17-4-7-46
(45) BETHEL-TATE (fg-3fg-ft-tp) Demaris 2-0-2-6 Reinhart 0-0-2-2 Jenike 9-2-2-22 Foster 1-0-1-3 Parks 4-1-1-10 Leonard 1-0-0-2. TOTALS 17-3-8-45
FIELD GOALS: BL 17-47 (Burton 6-17 Culberson 4-10); BT 17-44 (Jenike 9-17 Parks 4-9)
3 PT FIELD GOALS: BL 5-12 (Culberson 3-5 Burton 2-6); BT 3-12 (Jenike 2-4)
FREE THROWS: BL 7-16 (Burton 5-8); BT 8-9 (Jenike 2-2 Reinhart 2-2 Demaris 2-2)
REBOUNDS: BL-32 (Burton 7 Culberson 6 Doyle 4 Dugger 3 Doughman 2 Greene 2 E Gundler 1 Miller 1); BT-26 Demaris 7 Foster 4 Parks 4 Jenike 4)
ASSISTS: BL-11 (Burton 3 E. Gundler 3 Doughman 3 Dugger 1 Culberson 1); BT-3
STEALS: BL-8 (Burton 3 Culberson 2 E. Gundler 1 Dugger 1 Doughman 1); BT-7 (Jenike 3 Parks 2)
BLOCKED SHOTS: BL-2 (Burton 1 Doyle 1); BT-2 (Demaris 1, Jenike 1)
TURNOVERS: BL-11; BT-15
Reach Mark Huber at 937-556-5765, or on Twitter @wnjsports.