- By Greg Billing Contributing Writer
With Kenton Ridge’s biggest offensive threat drawing Shawnee’s attention on defense, it was KR’s two smallest players who lifted the Cougars on Thursday night.
Senior Desiree Jones and Kirsten Wiley, both listed at 5-foot-6, scored the Cougars’ final five points in a hard-fought 42-40 victory over rival Shawnee in the Division II sectional tournament at Tecumseh High School. The duo also combined for seven of KR’s 11 fourth-quarter points.
“They stepped up. We told them all year we need them to be aggressive,” KR coach Matt McCurdy said. “It’s kind of gone in lulls for both of them. When they’re aggressive we play well.”
Wiley scored twice on drives to the rim, the final one with 25 seconds left to give fifth-seeded KR a 40-38 lead. Jones then hit her final two free throws with 15.7 seconds left to put KR up 42-38.
“I just saw they were all pinching on the left side where (teammate) Mikala (Morris) was, so the right side was open,” Wiley said. “I just dove right there and was hoping to score and get a foul.”
No. 3 Shawnee (17-7) scored with 3.1 seconds left on senior Emily Lord’s basket. She grabbed the loose ball after KR freshman Joshlyn Johnson blocked Shawnee’s 3-point attempt. Forced to foul, Shawnee didn’t have a chance to get the ball down court after Wiley missed a free throw with 1.1 seconds remaining.
Shawnee also had a pair of costly turnovers on a travel with 1:40 to play and a five-second violation after a timeout with 17.9 seconds left.
“That’s what really got us motivated at the end,” Jones said. “Once we got that stop, all of our energy went to getting it done. This feels great knowing they beat us both times in the regular season.”
The Braves won the first two meetings 50-39 and 46-41. This one looked like it was going to end the same way. Shawnee led 25-15 at the half after junior Paree Furness drilled a pair of 3-pointers to close out the second quarter.
“We went into the locker room and had words of encouragement,” Jones said. “We came out and said don’t give up. Keep fighting.”
The lead went as high as 12 to open the third quarter before KR rallied. Jones, Wiley and Johnson led KR’s 9-2 run before Morris took over.
The 6-foot-2 Morris, averaging 22.5 points, scored six of her game-high 16 points in the final 1:35 of the third quarter. Until then Shawnee had held Morris to six points.
“Emily Lord. She’s been assigned her the last three games and has taken on that task,” Shawnee coach Blake Garberich said. “She does a great job keeping her composure while she’s guarding Morris. She does a great job boxing her out. All the credit goes to Emily, for sure.”
Wiley scored 12 points and Jones 10 to join Morris in double figures.
Shawnee senior Olivia Potts led the Braves with 11 points. Senior Liz Weaver added nine, Furness eight and Lord seven.
“I told them I was so proud and grateful for what they’ve accomplished this season,” Garberich said of one of the winningest seasons in Shawnee history. “This game doesn’t take it away. The balls didn’t fall our way at the end and unfortunately there’s nothing you can do. They played their hearts out for sure.”
Kenton Ridge (14-10) plays top-seeded Tippecanoe (22-2) in the sectional final at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at Tecumseh. Tipp, No. 4 in the final Associated Press state rankings, beat Northwestern 54-20 on Thursday. The winner advances to the district championship.
“We’ll get in the gym and see what we can come up with. That’s a tall task and we have to come ready to compete,” McCurdy said.
“Any game you win in the tournament is a bonus. The girls said at the beginning of the season this is where they wanted to be. Thankfully we’re here. We gave ourselves a chance to compete for an opportunity to go to district.”
Tippecanoe 54, Northwestern 20: Iowa State signee Maddie Frederick had 23 points to lead the top-seeded Red Devils in the other D-II girls sectional semi at Tecumseh on Thursday. The Warriors conclude with an 8-15 record.
Preble Shawnee 51, Greenon 33: The Knights’ season ended in a D-III sectional semi at Covington. Greenon finished 10-13.
Southeastern 45, Cin. Christian 39: Leslie Flores scored 17 points and Trinity Cline 10 in leading the Trojans in a D-IV sectional semi at Monroe on Thursday. Southeastern (7-16) will play Ohio Heritage Conference rival Cedarville in a sectional final at 7:30 p.m. Monday also at Monroe. Second-seeded Cedarville advanced by beating Lockland 50-21.