West Holmes Girls Basketball

Lady Knights bow out as Scotties build a nearly perfect second half

Senior captains Sammie Hall (left) Kylie Leppla and Kacie Leppla join coach Lisa Ogi in accept district runner-up trophy

If ever there was a case study in the importance of taking good care of the basketball, it was the effort of the Tri-Valley Scotties when they faced the West Holmes Lady Knights in the Div. III district final at Indian Valley High School Saturday, March 4.

Tri-Valley had 10 turnovers in the first half, but went into the locker room, readjusted their thought process and emerged a different team.

That change took an 18-18 tie and allowed the Scotties (17-7) to hammer out a 54-40 victory that ended West Holmes’ season at 20-5.

“We just reminded our kids that we had to get to two feet, we had to be strong with the basketball and settle down and play,” Kaufman said. “We felt we could get some penetration against them, and we did, and we felt we had an advantage inside with our height. We needed to make the sure pass. We tried to through over the top of them a lot in the first half, and every time we did we turned it over. We started bouncing it into the post, and that was the difference.”

The two team had battled to the tie at 18 by playing things West Holmes’ way. Low scoring games are exactly what Ogi wants from her crew, and that kind of grinding, patient defensive-minded game was what played out in the first 20 minutes.

Three minutes into the third period, Sammie Hall canned a 3-pointer to give the Lady Knights a 23-21 advantage, but then the Scotties made their move.

Mid-way through the third period, the tide began inching in the Scotties favor, and it began with a Lauren King put-back that tied the game at 23. With 2:30 to play in the quarter, Kacie Leppla hit two free throws to give West Holmes its final lead at 25-23. Alivia bash drilled a three to put Tri-Valley up 26-25 with 1:30 left in the quarter. Bash then made a key steal, went the distance to score and was fouled by Jess Marmet. Her and-one made it 29-25, and Audrey Spiker knocked down a jumper in the lane with 44 seconds left.

That little run led to a six-point edge with just seconds left to play in the period, but Kylie Leppla breathed some life into the Lady Knights when she knocked down a long jumper as time expired to trim the Tri-Valley advantage to four points.

It could have been a turning point in the game, but Tri-Valley came right out to begin the fourth quarter and extended the lead to eight to regain the momentum. Time began to become a factor, and an eight-point deficit is even more mountainous when the trailing team is one that is not adept at piling up points in a hurry.

Hall scored inside and then hit a triple to trim the deficit to three at 35-32, and West Holmes was back in business, but Alysa Edwards-Frick scored when two Lady Knights collided going for a lob pass, and after Ryman’s 3-popint attempt went half way down and came out, Edwards-Frick hit a jumper to mover the lead to 39-32. Marmet hit two free throws, but the Scotties scored five quick points to push the lead to its largest at 44-34.

Still, West Holmes battled valiantly. A pair of 3-pointers from Kaylor Perone and Kylie Leppla gave the Lady Knights some hope late, but West Holmes was running out of time and was forced to foul. Try-Valley didn’t blink, and made their free throws down the stretch to ice the game and stop West Holmes’ run of district titles at five in a row.

“It’s hardest to swallow because of these seniors,” Ogi said of the two Lepplas, Hall, Yerian and Sabryn Cutlip. “They are not the biggest, they are not the fastest, but they did everything we ever asked of them and played with such a great amount of heart and inspiration. The better team won today. It is difficult to sit here and watch someone else cute nets down. But I can’t fault these kids for their effort they gave all heart. They all did everything we asked them to do.”

For Kaufman and the Scotties, the thrill of victory over a team that has sent them packing several times during that stretch was gratifying, and he felt that the stretch during the third period played a key role in his team figuring things out.

“It feels good for our kids, it felt for for our program and it feels good for our school,” said Tri-Valley head coach Kurt Kaufman, a Holmes County native. “I thought we were able to score early in the third quarter and get a little bit of a lead, and that kind of stretched them out and took them out of their tempo.”

“To win a game like that against a very good team, you have to do a lot of little things right,” Kaufman said. “Our girls played great defense, they ran a good offense, they played great defense and took care of the ball, and they made their free throws.”

Ogi said that not only did the Scotties’ ability to take care of the ball play a key role in the game, so too did her team’s inability to follow suit.

“They took care of it and we didn’t in the second half,” Ogi said. “We turned it over too much. Plus, they out rebounded us and we got lost a couple of times on defense. Once we got down by six it became an uphill battle because six points is a lot to us.”

In addition to the deficit, West Holmes had a pair of incredibly unfortunate defensive moments where they did everything right only to see the Scotties score in crucial moments. After Perone and Hall canned triples late, Try-Valley went inside. As Hall and Yerian went up to grab the pass, they collided. Although they were in prefect position, they knocked each other to the floor, and instead of picking off the pass, allowed Tri-Valley to lay in an easy score. That happened not once but twice.

“That is bizarre,” Ogi said. “We play it perfectly only to have that happen twice.”

Hall paced West Holmes with 12 points, while Perone added eight, Kylie Leppla scored seven, Ryman scored six and Kacie Leppla knocked down five. Alivia Bash led Try-Valley with 16 points, but it was her free throw accuracy late that helped seal the deal. Bash nailed 9-of-10 free throws down the stretch. Alysa Edwards-Frick added 13 points, while Lauren King scored 11 for the winners. The difference in the game turned out to be at the free throw line, where Try-Valley scored 23 points compared to the Lady Knights’ nine. Much of that was attributed to the Scotties’ ability to get the ball into the paint at the second half, along with the parade at the end of the game.

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