By Mark Carpenter
Last Saturday night in Manchester saw two county girls varsity squads matched up for the third time this season as the third game of a quadruple header of rescheduled games. The Lady Hounds played host to an ever-improving group of West Union Lady Dragons and the contest turned out to be a fan’s delight, close from start to finish, before the home team held on for a 61-55 victory.
“I was proud of our effort,” said West Union head coach Jason Claytor. “I thought we played very hard, especially considering we were playing our fifth game in six days. The girls fought hard for 32 minutes.”
“This game was just a continuation of the learning process that we have been going through all season. We have to learn how to play in these close games. The more games like this we have, the better we will get.”
The tone of the game for the visiting Lady Dragons was set on their first possession when senior Natasha Barr drilled an open “3”, but the lead didn’t last long as Manchester answered with an old-fashioned three-point play by Rainelle Casey, who was on her way to a 19-point night. A three-pointer from the top of the key by Haylee Adams put the Lady Hounds up 8-5 but that just set up a nice 6-0 spurt by West Union. Baskets by Barr and Taylor Martin plus two Martin free throws put the Dragons up three.
A three-point play by Manchester’s Hannah Rideout deadlocked the game, in a first quarter that saw three ties and five lead changes. A Morgan Johnson trey from the left wing gave a lead back to the home team and began a 9-0 Manchester run, capped when Johnson struck again from nearly the exact same spot beyond the arc. Barr hit a pair from the foul line with 1.8 seconds left and the first period closed with the Lady Hounds on top 20-15.
The two teams swapped scores for the opening minutes of the second quarter, with a bucket by West Union’s CeCe Howard keeping the Manchester lead at just 24-21. A basket by Casey and two Rideout free throws pushed the Hounds back up by seven, but the Lady Dragons answered with scores from Lexie Hanes and Kristen Grooms. Grooms got hot, scoring six straight West Union points, that combined with another Barr three, gave the lead back to West Union at 33-32.
The back and forth action continued as Casey put the Lady Hounds up by one and Grooms answered to switch the one-point lead to the visitors side of the scoreboard. An entertaining first half ended with a Casey jumper at the buzzer as the home team regained the lead 36-35 at the intermission.
Fittingly, the lead changed again early in the third quarter when Barr put her team back in front, but a Rideout basket and two Casey foul shots generated another lead change, 40-37 Manchester. That lead was short-lived, as the Lady Dragons scored the game’s next seven, a stick back basket by Grooms, a bucket from Martin, and a Mikayla Akers three and West Union had its biggest lead of the night, 44-40 with three minutes left in the third.
As expected though, back came the Lady Hounds. Two baskets by Casey tied the score and after a pair of Jessica Boldman free throws for West Union, Rideout scored with 11 seconds left and the two teams headed for the fourth quarter right back where they started, all even, tied at 46.
Boldman sank two more from the charity stripe early in the final period to put the Dragons up 48-47, but couple of crucial turnovers by West Union allowed the home team to take the lead for good and a steal and lay in by Summer Wilbur put the Lady Hounds up 51-48 with six minutes to go.
A Marci Schneider jumper drew West Union back within one, but that was as close as they could get the rest of the way. A Johnson bucket put Manchester in front 55-50 and a basket by Tess Burns at the 4:02 mark stretched the advantage to 58-53. Both teams then hit a bump in the road, a scoring drought that wasn’t broken until a Barr steal and layup with 2:15 to play got the Lady Dragons back to a single possession game, trailing by three.
With that three-point lead, the Hounds generously turned the ball over, but the Lady Dragons returned the favor and Wilbur went to the foul line with 45.3 seconds left and calmly hit both attempts and after another West Union turnover, Johnson hit one of two from the line with six seconds left to account for the final point in a 61-55 Manchester victory.
“I think the three games with Manchester that we played this season showed the growth and improvement we made as a team,” said Coach Claytor. “The first game we lost by 28 and the second game we lost by 14. This game we lose by six and it was much closer than that.”
“We have to do a better job of taking care of the basketball. The turnover bug always seems to jump up and bite us at the worst times and tonight it got us again.”
For the winners, Rainelle Casey led three players in double figures with 19 points, followed by Hannah Rideout with 14 and Morgan Johnson with 13.
“Hannah did a fine job for us in a physical setting,” said Manchester head coach Jason Franklin. “They let a lot of banging go on tonight but she handled it well.”
“Jaylynd Boyd did a nice job for us tonight, especially on the defensive end. She got us a couple of big rebounds.”
For West Union, Natasha Barr continued to inch closer to the 1,000 point mark as she led the team and all scorers with 20 points, leaving her at 960 for her career. She was joined in double figures by teammates Taylor Martin and Kristen Grooms, each of whom added 10 points. Not only did Barr excel on the offensive end, but she contributed 6 steals on defense for the Lady Dragons. For Martin, it was her sixth double-double effort of the year as she added 11 rebounds to go with her 10 points. West Union also hit an outstanding 14 of 15 free throws in the game (93%).
“Taylor had another great game for us,” added Coach Claytor. ” Kristen Grooms stepped up and played one of her best games of the season. As the season goes on, she just keeps getting better.”
“Despite some early foul trouble, Lexie Hanes played very well (4 points, 3 assists, 4 steals). She was disruptive on defense and made some great decisions with the basketball. It would be safe to say that it was her best all-around game this season.”
Despite being out of school for the icy conditions, both teams were finally back in action Thursday night as they both hosted Southern Hills Athletic Conference games against county rivals. Manchester, now 11-7 on the year, entertained the 15-3 North Adams Lady Devils while the Lady Dragons welcomed the 16-2 Peebles Lady Indians to the county seat.
Mark Carpenter can be reached at 937-544-2391 or on Twitter @adamscosports.
15 20 11 9 —55
20 16 10 15 —61
W. Union (55): Schneider 1 0-0 2, Hanes 2 0-0 4, Howard 1 0-0 2, Akers 1 0-0 3, Martin 4 2-2 10, Grooms 4 2-2 10,
Barr 6 6-7 20, Boldman 0 4-4 4, Team 19 14-15 55.
Manchester (61): Burns 2 1-3 5, Adams 2 0-0 5, Johnson 5 1-3 13, Wilbur 1 3-4 5, Rideout 5 4-7 14, Casey 8 3-4 19,
Team 23 12-21 61.
Three-Point Goals: W. Union- Akers 1, Barr 2
Manchester- Adams 1, Johnson 2