RACINE, Ohio — All that time spent on conditioning really paid off.
All five Lady Tornadoes that started Thursday night’s non-conference girls basketball tilt against visiting Meigs played all 32 minutes, but the Purple and Gold were still able to overtake their guest late and sink 6-of-9 free throws in the final minute to seal the 37-31 victory.
Southern (8-3) hit back-to-back trifectas to start the game and held the Lady Marauders (4-7) scoreless for the opening 3:30. However, Meigs ended the first quarter with a 7-1 run and tied the game eight minutes into play.
The Maroon and Gold kept the momentum going early in the second period, scoring the first five points of the quarter, while holding Southern off the scoreboard until the 4:33 mark. Despite SHS ending the 8-plus minute cold spell with a Sierra Cleland trifecta, Meigs kept pushing forward and ended the half on top 18-to-14.
Meigs freshman Kassidy Betzing opened the second half with a three-pointer that stretched the MHS lead to 21-14, but the Lady Tornadoes stormed back to take a 22-21 lead with an 8-0 run. The Lady Marauders answered right back however, outscoring the hosts 5-to-3 over the final 3:00 of the third, which gave Meigs a 26-25 lead with eight minutes to play.
SHS senior Jansen Wolfe sank a two-pointer to give the Purple and Gold the lead in the opening minute of the third quarter, but the Lady Tornadoes didn’t score again for over 4:30, and Meigs regained the lead at 29-27. The Lady Tornadoes tied the game at 29 on a Faith Teaford field goal at the 2:52 mark, and Southern took the lead for good with 1:17 remaining, as Cleland sank a two-pointer off of an assist by Teaford.
SHS expanded the lead to 33-29 with back-to-back free throws by Ali Deem, but the advantage was cut back to one possession when Betzing sank a pair of free throws for Meigs. The game stayed at one possession when Haley Hill made 1-of-2 free throws with 24 seconds to play, but the missed free throw was hauled in by Wolfe and Southern retained possession.
With 18 seconds to play, Deem was fouled and made 2-of-2 free throw attempts, expanding the Lady Tornado lead to 36-31. Meigs went 0-for-3 from the charity stripe on its next possession and Southern capped off the 37-31 win with a free throw by Teaford.
“I thought once we got the lead our kids buckled down,” second-year SHS head coach Kent Wolfe said. “They played like juniors and seniors and on the other side of the floor they’ve got freshmen and sophomores. Once we got the lead, we made some foul shots and had the ball in the right people’s hands to make the foul shots.
“Give a lot of credit to Meigs and Coach Cleland, they had a great game plan. I thought they tried to slow us down, let us make some decisions and they really crowded our post players. We didn’t shoot the ball well from the perimeter which fed into their game plan.”
Lady Marauders head coach Scott Cleland, who preceded Wolfe as Lady Tornadoes coach, noted the fourth quarter woes that plagued his team.
“We were 1-for-12 there in the fourth quarter, you can’t win when your missing that many shots,” Coach Cleland said. “We had a game plan, they stuck to it and they did a great job. We wanted to pressure them from one end of the court to the other and we wanted to keep the ball out of the high post. Really they beat us from the free throw line, we fouled them when we shouldn’t have and that happens.”
Deem paced the Purple and Gold with 12 points, followed by Teaford with 10 and Cleland with six. Hill marked five points in the win, while Wolfe finished with four.
Southern shot 14-of-19 (73.7 percent) from the free throw line and 10-of-44 (22.7 percent) from the field, including 3-of-15 (20 percent) from beyond the arc. As a team the Purple and Gold had 24 defensive rebounds, 13 offensive boards, nine assists, 11 steals, seven blocks, 20 turnovers and eight fouls.
Teaford and Wolfe led Southern on the boards with 11 rebounds each, followed by Deem with eight. Hill paced the SHS defense with five steals, while Wolfe contributed two steals and four blocks. Wolfe marked a team-best three assists in the win, while Deem and Hill each had two.
“We really weren’t ourselves tonight,” Coach Wolfe said. “Our kids had to play two nights ago and had to give everything they had against a pressing team. They came back 48 hours later against another team that’s bringing 10 people in. We’re tired, we’re exhausted and I’m glad we don’t play on Saturday.”
The Lady Tornadoes return to action at 0-8 Wahama, on Monday.
Betzing led Meigs with nine points before fouling out, while Madison Fields and Madison Hendricks each added five points. Marissa Noble scored three points for Meigs, Danielle Morris, Alli Hatfield, Bre Colburn and Halley Barnes each finished with two, while Sarah Dowell scored one point in the setback.
Meigs was 3-of-7 (42.9 percent) from the free throw line and 12-of-47 (25.5 percent) from the field, including 4-of-18 (22.2 percent) from three-point range. The Lady Marauders combined for 21 defensive rebounds, seven offensive rebounds, nine assists, 11 steals, four blocks, 21 turnovers and 17 fouls in the contest.
Morris paced Meigs on the glass with five rebounds, followed by Barnes and Noble with four each. The Lady Marauder defense was led by Betzing with four steals and Dowell with three steals and a block. Fields, Betzing and Courtney Jones each had two assists for the Maroon and Gold.
“I’m very pleased with where we are right now,” Coach Cleland said. “Did we want the ‘w’, absolutely, but these girls play hard. This is the most down that I’ve seen them, so it shows me that they care. They really wanted to win this ball game and they want to win every game. They’ve got the fire back and it’s real exciting.”
Meigs, which had won three straight games prior to Wednesday, visits 1-10 Federal Hocking on Monday. MHS topped the Lady Lancers in the season opener at Larry R. Morrison Gymnasium, by a 55-45 count.
Alex Hawley can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2100.