The Shawnee Braves girls basketball team did all it could to add another league championship to the banner that hangs in the high school gym.
The Tecumseh Arrows, though, did just enough to prevent that from happening Saturday night. Tecumseh – which beat Shawnee by 34 points on Wednesday – held on for a physical, hard-fought 38-34 victory and its third straight Central Buckeye Conference Kenton Trail Division title.
RELATED: Saturday night scoreboard
RELATED: Saturday night roundup
Shawnee’s last and lone league championship came in 2003. The Braves gave it a good run Saturday, shaking off that stunning 70-34 loss from three days earlier.
“We came ready to play. We had our heads on right,” Shawnee coach Blake Garberich said. “We knew that last game wasn’t us. We hadn’t played like that all year long.”
Tecumseh knew that feeling Saturday. The Arrows, who came into the game averaging 72.4 points, were held to a season low. In that first meeting the Arrows had scored 32 points by halftime.
But Shawnee switched to a triangle-and-two defense and also fared better against Tecumseh’s swarming full-court press on Saturday. Shawnee finished with 31 turnovers on Wednesday. They had 18 on Saturday.
Tecumseh (16-5 overall, 11-1 CBC) took the lead for good, 28-27, on junior Mackenzie Pauley’s 3-pointer with 6:32 left in third quarter. She hit another with 3:45 left to give Tecumseh its largest lead of the game at 34-27.
Shawnee (14-6, 9-3 CBC) answered with a basket by senior Olivia Potts and two free throws from junior Hannah Schartz to end the quarter down 34-31. With Shawnee concentrating on stopping junior scoring threats Corinne Thomas and Presley Griffitts, Tecumseh spent a majority of the fourth quarter running a patient, ball-controlling offense that drained two minutes or more at a time off the clock.
“I don’t like doing that, but if you’re not going to guard all of my players that kind of forces my hand,” coach Thomas said.
A Thomas drive down the lane with 1:47 left in the game provided the first points of the fourth quarter and a 36-31 lead. Shawnee senior Emily Lord made it 36-33 with 50 seconds left.
Griffitts pushed the lead to 38-33 with two free throws with 39 seconds to go. Shawnee senior Alisa Williams made one of two free throws with 32 seconds left for the final score. Tecumseh missed three free throws in the final 24 seconds and were 7-of-15 overall.
“That was the goal. Win no matter what,” Tecumseh coach Danielle Thomas said.
Few of the Arrows, though, felt like celebrating a school-record third straight league title after struggling most of the game. Thomas, who entered the game averaging 24.5 points, led Tecumseh with 10. Griffitts, averaging 21.4, finished with six. It was the first time in 45 games (going back to her freshman season) that Griffitts had been held to single digits.
Pauley finished with nine points.
“It is (good to get the win), but as long as I’ve coached … it’s harder because the more years you go on winning, you become more of a perfectionist,” coach Thomas said. “Even when you win you’re not happy unless it’s pretty basketball out there. That was not pretty. That was pretty ugly.”
Potts led Shawnee with 16 points and Schartz added six.
The game featured six lead changes and five ties. Shawnee’s largest lead came at 20-14 in the second quarter. The Braves’ final lead, 27-24, came with 6:51 left in the third quarter. That’s when Tecumseh used an 11-0 run – highlighted by Pauley’s 3-pointers – to take charge.
“We talked at the beginning of the season that we wanted to fight for a league title,” said Garberich, whose team finished third in the division at 7-6 last season. “We gave ourselves a chance to do that. I’m proud of how we responded. … (Wednesday night) wasn’t them. To come back like we did and respond like we did, I’m sure there were some Tecumseh fans and other people that were pretty surprised that they just got played tough.”
Shawnee closes out the regular season with Bellefontaine on Wednesday and Southeastern on Thursday.
Tecumseh ends the regular season hosting Kenton Ridge (11-7, 8-3 CBC) on Wednesday. KR handed Tecumseh its lone league loss 56-48 on Jan. 6.
“We’re not near where I want us to be yet. We’re young,” coach Thomas said. “… But I see good things coming with my young kids. Hopefully as we progress through this season and through the summer I think we’ll only continue to get better.”