SOUTH CHARLESTON — The Greenon High School girls basketball team’s first goal this season was to win their second Ohio Heritage Conference South Division title in four years.
The Knights held off a third-quarter rally from Southeastern and used their defense to pull away in the fourth quarter to earn a 47-34 OHC South victory on Wednesday night in South Charleston.
“It was our goal,” said Knights Nick Minnich, who is in his first season with the program. “I don’t think the girls even knew. When we went into the (locker room) they were excited. It was our No. 1 goal. We came here with a mission.”
Greenon senior Abby West had a team-high 17 points and sophomore Avery Minteer added 11 as the Knights improved to 15-4 and 11-2 in the OHC South, clinching the outright conference title with three games to play.
“We’ve been working on this since freshman year when we first won,” West said. “We’ve tried to do it every year since I’ve been here, but this year had to be the year. It was good.”
Trojans senior Kelsey Vollrath scored a game-high 19 points for Southeastern, which fell to 12-7 and 7-6 in the OHC South.
“The girls have done a really good job this year,” said Trojans coach Matt Harner. “We’ve come a really long way from where we were at the beginning of the season. It’s hard because this is one the girls check mark every year on the schedule because they want to beat them so bad. We fought hard.”
The Knights led by as many as 13 points in the first half, but Southeastern fought back to cut the lead to seven points at 30-23 at the half.
The Trojans got a layup from junior Layni Bonifay and a 3-pointer by freshman Kaylee Billet to cut the lead to 34-32 midway through the third quarter.
Minnich thought about calling a timeout to slow down the Trojans, but opted to let his Knights squad keep playing. Greenon got back-to-back 3-pointers from junior Allie Hundley and sophomore Avery Minteer to give the Knights a 40-32 after three quarters.
“We’re such an experienced team and I trust these girls with everything we do,” he said. “I decided to let them play through it to get that experience for later in the season. … Having a sophomore and junior hit those shots was huge.”
The Knights got another layup from Minteer to open the fourth quarter and never looked back. Greenon held the Trojans without a field goal in the final eight minutes to seal the victory.
“At halftime, we told them defense is all that matters,” Minnich said.
The Trojans were playing the second night of a back-to-back after beating Kenton Ridge in a makeup game on Tuesday night.
“I really would’ve liked to have played this one on fresh legs,” Harner said. “We had a few girls do some really good things and other girls struggled, but that’s basketball. You’ve got to find a way to push through it. I’m proud of the girls for their effort. I’m obviously not excited about the end result, but you can’t score 32 points and expect to win a game.”
The Trojans are hoping to make a run in the upcoming D-IV tournament. The Trojans will play in the Versailles bracket, which includes D-IV top-ranked Tri-Village.
“It’s always going to be tough,” Harner said. “There are a few other 10-win teams in the bracket. If we can get a No. 2 or 3 seed, we’ve got a good opportunity to make a run. Our prep will be the same. Every day you’ve got to keep getting better and keep fighting. That’s the goal — get better every day.”
With three games remaining, the Knights will look to build on their success so far this season. They’ll find out who they play in the loaded D-II Dayton bracket during Sunday’s draw. The Knights were a district runner-up in D-III last season, falling to eventual state champion Purcell Marian.
“We’ll see where we’re at, keep battling and game planning,” Minnich said.
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