Manchester girls ousted in sectional finals –
By Mark Carpenter –
Manchester head coach Vohn Hoop knew going into last Thursday’s sectional tournament game that the result would ultimately be determined by how well his very young squad reacted to being on the big stage of postseason play. The Lady Hounds faced the Portsmouth Clay Lady Panthers in a Division IV sectional championship game on Feb. 15 and for at least one half, the “big” stage did not seem to bother the young ladies from Manchester, but unfortunately for them and their fans, a basketball game consists of two halves.
Playing well, the Lady Hounds held at one point an eight-point second quarter advantage and led by two at the half, but after they only managed three points in the third quarter as Clay turned up the pressure on both ends and the tone of the game totally changed as the Lady Panthers charged from behind to put an end to the Manchester season, taking the sectional crown with a 56-45 win.
“In the second half, we just couldn’t get into our offense, we just seemed a little lost on that end,” said Coach Hoop in a postgame radio interview. “I don’t know if it was playing in a big game like this or what. I thought we would handle it better, Clay didn’t do anything that we hadn’t prepared for, but that spell in the third quarter just killed us.”
“I’m disappointed for our kids. They have played hard all year. We all just need to work hard and get even better for next year.
Both teams may have faced a few jitters on the hardwood at Northwest High School as scoring was scarce in the early going, until a three-pointer by Emily Sweeney gave the Lady Hounds a 7-6 lead and seemed to jump start both offenses. A later old fashioned three-point play by Sweeney and then a three-point goal by Brooke Kennedy and the Lady Hounds escaped the first eight minutes with a slim one-point lead at 13-12.
Manchester opened the second stanza with a stick back bucket from Darrington White and a score in the paint from Sydnie Cox to open a five-point lead. A later Cox basket increased the lead to seven at 21-14 and the Lady Hounds seemed to have found a rhythm. A steal and score by Sweeney pushed the margin to 22-14, but the Lady Panthers scored the final five points of the first half, holding Manchester scoreless for two minutes and closing the gap to 25-23 at the intermission.
The second half was like watching a totally different game, mostly because of the work of Clay’s Jensen Warnock, who exploded for 23 points in the second half to key the Lady Panther surge. With the Lady Hounds getting very sloppy on offense, Clay used a trio of baskets by Warnock and a three-pointer by Cameron DeLotell to turn a two-point halftime deficit into a 35-28 advantage.
The last breath of life for the Lady Hounds came on their first possession of the final quarter on a “bucket and one” by Cox, but that was answered by a three-pointer by Clay’s Regan Osborn and back to back baskets by Warnock that put the Lady Panthers on top 42-31. After a basket by Manchester’s Karigan Turner, Clay continued to pull away, getting a pair of three balls from the red-hot Warnock to extend the lead to 15 and all but put the final nails in the Manchester coffin. In the game’s final two minutes, the Lady Hounds got a basket from Cox and two from Kennedy, but by that point, the deficit was too much to overcome as the Lady Panthers earned the honor of cutting down the nets as sectional champions with the 56-45 triumph.
Warnock topped the winners with a big 30-point night, 23 of those coming in the second half. Regan Osborn also hit double figures for the winners with 12 as Clay moved on to the Division IV district semis.
Though their season ended, there is plenty of reason for optimism in the Manchester camp. Often times this season, Coach Hoop fielded a lineup on the court that included four freshman and in Thursday’s loss, the four leading scorers for the Hounds were all freshmen, led by 16 points from Brooke Kennedy. Manchester also got 11 points from Sydnie Cox, and 8 each from Karigan Turner and Emily Sweeney. The Lady Hounds will lose three seniors, C.J. Hobbs, Alyssa Hoskins, and Jade Rust, and finish their season with a final overall record of 13-8, leaving plenty of hope for what this group may accomplish in years to come.
“Tonight was a tough pill to swallow but we have a lot of talent coming back,” said Coach Hoop. “I felt like we had enough talent to win tonight, but things just didn’t fall our way.”
13 12 3 17 –45
12 11 12 21 –56
Manchester (45): Turner 2 4-4 8, White 1 0-0 2, Cox 4 3-5 11, Kennedy 7 1-2 16, Sweeney 3 1-1 8, Team 17 9-12 45.
P. Clay (56): Adams 1 0-0 2, R. Osborn 5 1-2 12, Balestra 4 0-4 8, DeLotell 1 0-2 3, Warnock 10 8-12 30, Artis 0 1-2 1, Team 21 10-22 56.
Manchester (2): Kennedy 1, Sweeney 1
P. Clay (4): R. Osborn 1, Warnock 2, DeLotell 1