It is rare that a pair of 18-4 teams meet in the first round of a sectional basketball tournament.
But Thursday night at Lebanon High School in a Div. II girls basketball sectional matchup, 18-4 Blanchester will meet 18-4 Clinton-Massie. That’s the No. 3 seeded Lady Falcons against the No. 5 seeded Ladycats.
“It should be a good atmosphere,” BHS head coach Bennie Carroll said. “It’s been a while since we’ve experienced a good tournament atmosphere. We’re looking forward to that with our girls.”
The game is set for a 7:30 p.m. tipoff. It is the second game of the day with No. 7 seed Ross facing No. 8 seed Oakwood in the first game at 6 p.m.
“This is good for the area, good for the county,” CM head coach Carlos Roberts said. “We know we’re going to have a battle on our hands.”
Blanchester’s season ended with a historic Southern Buckeye Athletic & Academic Conference National Division championship, the first in varsity girls basketball since the 1989 season when BHS won the Fort Ancient Valley Conference title.
“We’ve pretty much come to play every game and that’s what we have to do (Thursday) night,” Carroll said. “We have to play hard defensively and play the best we can offensively.”
The Ladycats have built their success at the defensive end of the floor with a relentless, full-court press. However, they’ve not pressed anyone with the ability of Clinton-Massie’s Miquela Santoro.
“We know it’s a tall order. Massie is a very good team and Santoro is a great player,” Carroll said.
The Lady Falcons are rated No. 9 in the state, according to this week’s AP girls basketball poll. But they finished behind No. 10 Miami Trace in the South Central Ohio League standings.
”I the way we’re playing,” said Roberts. “I like the way we played last week, stepped up and got some things done. I just hope it carries over.”
Roberts is quick to realize Santoro will be the focus of all teams. The success of the Lady Falcons in the tournament will come to down to other players coming through in key moments.
“Different things we do every day that don’t involve her (Santoro), that they have to do on their own,” said Roberts. “For the most part this year, they’ve done that. We rely on her a lot, but these other girls have stepped up.
“We have a couple of young kids who have done it. It’s taken some pressure off Miquela. We just hope they can maintain that during the tournament, starting (Thursday).”
Reach Mark Huber at 937-556-5765, or on Twitter @wnjsports.