LEES CREEK — In a game that had several momentum swings, the final swing Monday night went the way of the Blanchester girls basketball team.
Trailing by two at the end of the third quarter, Blanchester outscored East Clinton 16-9 in the fourth to rally for a 47-42 victory against its former and future Southern Buckeye Conference rivals.
Blanchester trailed most of the game. East Clinton led 17-2 after the first quarter and 19-4 with 6:52 left in the second. East Clinton was able to get to the basket consistently and turned into easy points and free throw attempts.
However, as Blanchester began to come back in the second quarter, East Clinton wasn’t able to get the easy baskets inside and didn’t convert as many free throw attempts.
“We knew we had the ability to get to the rim, so that was something we stressed,” EC head coach Steven Gerber said. “We did a good job of it. We just couldn’t finish. It was just one of those nights when the ball didn’t drop.”
Meanwhile, Blanchester raised its energy level considerably after a sleepy first quarter.
“We started amping up the energy a little bit and turned them over a few times,” BHS head coach Bennie Carroll said. “The first quarter, they made us look slow.”
The Lady Astro lead was 33-31 entering the fourth. Free throws by Elicia Patton and McKenzie Miller gave Blanchester its first lead of the night, 34-33, with 5:13 left.
After Kayla Hall put EC back in front with a pair of free throws, Patton drained a three to give Blanchester a 37-35 lead.
Mackenzie Campbell pulled East Clinton even again with two free throws with 4:05 left. Savana Greene would answer with a bucket with 3:46 left to give Blanchester the lead for good.
Asia Baldwin would make two free throws with 31.2 left to give the Lady Wildcats a 45-42 lead.
Paige Lilly tried to cut the deficit to one, but her shot missed. The rebound was saved inbounds to Greene, who was fouled. She made two free throws with 17.2 seconds left to push the Blanchester lead to 47-42 and end the EC comeback attempt.
“Energy in a ballgame is a hard thing to explain,” Carroll said. “They had all the energy in the first quarter, and then we seemed to get it.”
Nine different Blanchester players scored, led by Patton and Dakota Watters who had nine points each. Baldwin had seven while Greene had six.
“The last four or five games have all been this way,” Carroll said. “They’ve all come down to the end. Honestly, it comes down to girls … they made some plays. In this game, we made some plays, hit some shots, hit a couple foul shots. There was no magic.
“The girls were intense and did some good things. All ten girls played well and contributed to the win.”
Campbell and Kaitlin Durbin led EC (3-8) with 10 points each. Durbin also had 10 rebounds, while Bre Davis had seven points and 12 rebounds.
The difference for the Lady Astros after the first quarter was easy for Gerber to explain.
“We just didn’t make a shot,” Gerber said. “We missed easy shots all night long. We got everything we wanted. We did a good job getting to the rim. We got every shot we wanted.”
The first half was a tale of two quarters. East Clinton was able to get to the basket at will in the opening quarter. When they didn’t score, they hit the offensive glass.
“We started the game pretty lethargically,” Carroll said. “We didn’t play hard on defense and we were tentative on offense. Give East Clinton credit. They were ready to play, executed well and hit some shots.”
The Lady Astros forced 10 Blanchester turnovers and had six offensive rebounds. That propelled EC to a 17-2 lead after the first.
Blanchester (7-3) rallied in the second. After the Lady Astros pushed its lead to 19-4 with 6:52 left in the half, the Lady Wildcats went on a 14-3 run to close the half.
The second quarter was Blanchester’s turn to get to the basket, and then to the free throw line. After EC was 7 for 10 in the first quarter at the line, Blan was 7 of 9 from the line in the second, cutting the deficit to 22-18 at the half.
Gerber was pleased with his team’s execution but frustrated that those well-executed plays didn’t show up on the scoreboard.
“Those shots will fall going forward,” Gerber said. “We’ve got to do a better job understanding how to finish through contact. We’ve got to keep working at it and keep grinding.”
January 2, 2017
At East Clinton High School
Blanchester 47, East Clinton 42
(47) BLANCHESTER (fg-3fg-ft-tp) Asia Baldwin 1-0-5-7, Elicia Patton 3-1-2-9, Olivia Gundler 1-0-0-2, Merri Lindsey 1-1-0-3, Emma Gundler 2-0-1-5, McKenzie Miller 2-0-1-5, Savana Greene 2-0-2-6, Dakota Watters 2-0-5-9. TOTALS 14-2-17-47.
(42) EAST CLINTON (fg-3fg-ft-tp) Lacey Peterman 1-0-2-4, Mackenzie Campbell 3-0-4-10, Paige Lilly 2-0-0-4, Kaitlin Durbin 2-0-6-10, Bre Davis 3-0-1-7, Sierra Christian 1-0-0-2, Kayla Hall 1-0-3-5. TOTALS 13-0-16-42.
FIELD GOALS: B 14/55 (Patton 3/17, E. Gundler 2/5, Miller 2/3, Greene 2/6, Watters 2/6); E 13/54 (Campbell 3/13, Davis 3/8, Lilly 2/9, Durbin 2/11)
3 POINT FIELD GOALS: B 2/8; E 0/4
FREE THROWS: B 17/28 (Baldwin 5/8, Watters 5/6); E 16/25 (Durbin 6/8, Campbell 4/5, Hall 3/5)
REBOUNDS: B 49 (Watters 9, Baldwin 6, O. Gundler 6, Greene 6, E. Gundler 5); E 44 (Davis 12, Durbin 10, Campbell 6)
ASSISTS: B 3 (E. Gundler 2); E 2
STEALS: B 7 (Patton 2, O. Gundler 2, E. Gundler 2); E 11 (Peterman 3, Lilly 2, Durbin 2, Davis 2)
BLOCKED SHOTS: B 4 (O. Gundler 2); E 4 (Davis 2)
TURNOVERS: B 23; E 18
Matt Sexton covers high school sports for the News Journal. Follow him on Twitter @bymattsexton