Kenton Ridge made it a goal this season to be in the position it found itself in late in Tuesday night’s sectional final against top-seeded Tippecanoe, the fourth-ranked Division II team in Ohio.
The fifth-seeded Cougars trailed by a point with 2:20 to play in a sectional final at Tecumseh. Another trip to the district tournament — an almost yearly destination for both programs — was on the line. Freshman guard Joshlyn Johnson had just made a 3-pointer to cap a 12-5 run for the Cougars.
But Tipp was able to hold the ball and make enough free throws to stop the comeback and emerge with a 48-43 victory.
“Our kids showed a lot of resilience,” Cougars coach Matt McCurdy said. “We were really focused a little more at the defensive end, started attacking the rim with more aggressiveness and confidence and going through a lot of contact. We just continued to compete at the end.”
The Red Devils (23-2) will play in a district final Friday night at Mason High School against Goshen (14-11), a No. 6 seed in the Cincinnati sectional.
McCurdy took over the Cougars’ program this year after a long and successful tenure by Ed Foulk. He knew for this team to be successful that defense had to be the key to have a chance to reach the district tournament. The Cougars (14-11) held Tipp 11 points below its average.
“It’s tough to get up and play at the defensive end the entire time and then turn around and try to get some baskets,” McCurdy said. “They’ve bought into it. We were right in position with the No. 4 team in the state to move on to districts. We’re moving in the right direction.”
Desiree Jones, who scored eight points and was the team’s second-leading scorer this season, was the only senior starter. Back to lead next year’s team is Division I prospect Mikala Morris, a 6-foot-2 post player who averaged 22 points and 19 rebounds.
Morris scored 12 against Tipp and was guarded closely by Tipp’s Chloe Shretzman, a 6-1 senior, and Brooke Aselage, a 5-10 junior.
“We wanted to stop Mikala Morris inside and just contain,” said Tipp leading scorer Maddie Frederick. “So we really worked together, just trusted each other and got where we needed to be and pressured the ball while covering the inside.”
The Cougars, however, built an 18-12 lead on Kirsten Wiley’s 3-pointer midway through the second quarter. But Tipp responded with its first of two big runs, outscoring the Cougars 14-2 the rest of the half for a 26-20 lead.
KR responded in the second half to grab a 27-26 lead on a 3-pointer and layup by Wiley, who scored 11 points, and a jumper in the lane by Morris.
But Tipp closed the quarter with a 13-4 run to take a 39-31 lead to the fourth quarter. Frederick, a transfer this season from Arizona who has signed with Iowa State, scored seven points in the run. She ignited it with a fast-break, pull-up 3-pointer.
“Frederick’s one heck of a player,” McCurdy said. “She hit tough shots all night. I thought we did a great job of guarding her. Mariah (Baker) was on her all night and had two hands in her face on shots. She just continued to hit them.”
Tipp has been playing without second-leading scorer Allison Mader in the tournament because of a concussion. She won’t play Friday, but she might return if the Red Devils advance to regionals.
Carroll 52, Trotwood-Madison 41: Elisabeth Bush scored 21 points and fourth-seeded Carroll made seven 3-pointers to knock off No. 2 seed Trotwood in a D-II sectional final on Tuesday at Tecumseh. Carroll jumped to a 24-10 lead in the first half. Trotwood fought back with pressure defense to trail 41-39 early in the fourth quarter. Carroll closed with an 11-2 run.
Allie Stefanek added 11 points for Carroll. Carroll will play in the district tournament Friday at Mason High School. Shaiquel McGruder led Trotwood with 14 points and Mercedes Woodward added 13.
West Liberty-Salem 42, Greeneview 38: Alex Burton and Taylor Lauck each scored 12 points and the Tigers defeated their OHC rivals in a D-III sectional final at Trotwood on Tuesday. WL-Salem (19-5) will play Summit Country Day in a D-III district final on Saturday at Springfield High School.
Third-seeded Greeneview (21-3) had beaten WL-Salem 44-33 in the regular season.