By Mark Carpenter
It was a banner season for Coach Jessica Johnson and her 7th Grade West Union Lady Dragons basketball squad, though the ending only turned out half the way that the coach and team would have liked. The Lady Dragons made their way to last Saturday championship game of the Southern Hills Athletic Conference tournament, only to see a tough second half result in a 26-22 loss to the Fairfield Lady Lions.
Because of all the crazy winter weather, the Lady Dragons also had one more league game to make up and that was a showdown for first place on Monday night in West Union with the Lynchburg Lady Mustangs, winner take all for the regular season title. That contest turned out the way the Lady Dragons hoped as they topped Lynchburg 32-28 to finish their season at 15-2 overall, champions of the SHAC regular season and runners-up in the SHAC tournament.
In the tournament final last Saturday, played at Eastern Middle School, the Lady Dragons had a shaky first quarter, with perhaps nerves playing a part in numerous turnovers on the offensive end.West Union got an offensive rebound and score from Jaycee Baldwin on their first possession but didn’t score again until there were just four seconds left in the first period with a running bank shot in the lane from Alexa Pennington. Luckily for the Lady Dragons, their defense held Fairfield to just a pair of first quarter baskets and after six minutes of play, the two teams were deadlocked at 4-4.
The Dragons’ Mackenzie Bickett quickly broke that tie, getting baskets on the first two West Union possessions of the second quarter. The Lady Lions answered with a bucket by Trinity Huff, but Pennington drilled a “3” from the top of the key at the 2:50 mark to make it 11-6 West Union. Another Baldwin score put the Lady Dragons up by seven as they seemed to be finding their offensive groove. The first half finished with the momentum for the green and white as McKenzie Kirker fired in a three-pointer to give the Lady Dragons a 16-8 halftime advantage.
All of the momentum going into halftime for West Union somehow managed to vanish during the 10-minute break as the Lady Dragons could not buy a basket in the third quarter, getting just one score, another Pennington three at the 2:45 mark. Fairfield began the period on a 6-0 run and ended it on a 6-0 run and suddenly, the Lady Lions had taken back control, leading after three 20-19.
A basket one minute into the fourth stanza by Lauren Arnold stretched the Fairfield lead to three, but the game was evened up with 3:15 to go when Kirker hit her second trey of the game for the Lady Dragons. Again, though, the offensive blues continued for West Union as the Kirker three turned out to be their only points of the fourth quarter. The Lady Dragons had opportunities down the stretch, but just couldn’t get the proverbial “lid” off the basket. Fairfield’s Arnold hit three free throws in the game’s final minute as the Lady Lions captured the SHAC tournament title with a 26-22 victory.
In the tough loss, the Lady Dragons were led by 8 points from Alexa Pennington, 6 from McKenzie Kirker, and 4 each from Jaycee Baldwin and McKenzie Bickett. Fairfield was topped by 9 points apiece from Lauren Arnold and Trinity Huff.
Mark Carpenter can be reached at 937-544-2391 or on Twitter @adamscosports.
4 4 12 6 —26
4 12 3 3 —22
Fairfield (26): Arnold 3 3-5 9, Swisher 1 1-4 3, Magee 2 1=2 5, Huff 4 1-4 9, Burleson 0 0-3 0, Team 10 6-18 26.
W. Union (22): Bickett 2 0-0 4, Kirker 2 0-0 6, Baldwin 2 0-3 4, Pennington 3 0-0 8, Team 9 0-3 22.
Three-Point Goals: W. Union- Kirker 2, Penington 2