Little did Garaway athletic director Chip Amicone realize he would take so much abuse when he recently replaced the old, dangerous rims at Garaway’s high school gymnasium.
It may have been a huge coincidence, but neither Garaway nor Indian Valley had much success putting the ball in the hole in Garaway’s 36-27 victory in Sugarcreek on Saturday, Dec. 8.
While it is doubtful the new rims were the culprit, what did play a role was the spirited defense displayed by both teams.
After bludgeoning the Braves 63-12 last season, it would be easy to assume another Garaway victory was in store, but if anyone was thinking this game would be a monumental blowout, they were on the wrong end of the spectrum.
Last season Indian Valley was loaded with inexperienced sophomores and was missing its best player, Karissa Bardall, who missed the year with a knee injury.
This year the Braves are a year older and more experienced, and Bardall is back and healthy, which has helped the Braves to improve drastically over last season.
“These girls have worked so hard, and they were excited about playing Garaway,” Indian Valley head coach Randy Emler said. “We are excited about this season, and we really gave a great effort here tonight, even though we came out on the short end.”
The game began like it was going to be all Garaway with the Lady P’s creating a ton of early turnovers. Unfortunately for Dave Shutt’s crew, Garaway had a major issue converting those turnovers into points as they misfired from both beyond the arc and from point-blank range over and over.
“We’re blaming this on Chip,” Shutt said with a laugh after the game. “No, we struggled to make anything, and we probably had 15 shots from point blank in the paint that we didn’t finish. We just failed to shoot the ball tonight.”
After IV’s Emily Love scored inside, Garaway began its ice-cold assault on the rim. The Lady Pirates induced several Indian Valley turnovers but couldn’t score, and it would be close to three minutes in before Zoe Johnson would get a steal and put Garaway on the board. Two more steals would lead to two more Johnson lay-ups, and Ashton Gerber’s free throw gave Garaway a 7-2 lead. The Lady Pirates had more chances to extend the lead but couldn’t take advantage, and Maleah Stansbery scored inside with just over one minute remaining in the first quarter, giving Garaway a 7-4 lead after one period.
— OhioSportsTicket.com (@OhioTicket) December 8, 2018
“You work that hard on defense to create turnovers and can’t covert them into points, and those become empty possessions where we could have definitely stretched our lead,” Shutt said. “That just forced us to play that much harder on defense, which I thought we did.”
Again Garaway pressed the issue to begin the second quarter, and Kallie Regula, Garaway’s top scoring threat, found Gerber in the paint on a nice pass, and Lizzie Mullet did the same, spotting a cutting Chelsi Rothacher for an easy score. Bardall connected on a short jumper, but when Mullet buried a 3-pointer, Garaway had pushed out to a 14-6 lead.
What ensued was more misses from Garaway while Indian Valley’s Brenlyn Rostad found the range on a short jumper and a 3-pointer to trim the deficit to one at 14-13. Johnson would slash down the lane late in the half and give Garaway a 16-13 half-time lead.
Garaway kick-started the third quarter just like it had in the second period with Rothacher slashing to the hole for two and Gerber connecting on two free throws for a 20-13 lead. Again the Braves fought back with a Rostad bucket, a free throw from Bardall and a score inside from Karissa Dyer, and that quickly the Lady P’s lead was back down to 20-18.
At the 3:45 mark in the quarter, Regula, averaging nearly 20 points per contest, knocked down her only bucket of the game, but Indian Valley answered with two Kylie Cagot free throws, and when Rostad dropped in her second trey of the game, the Braves had their first lead since 2-0 at 23-22.
That lead lasted exactly one trip down the floor, where Mullet stepped into her second 3-pointer of the game to put Garaway back up 25-23.
“Lizzie made a pair of really big threes, timely threes, and she is probably shooting it as well as anyone from beyond the arc,” Shutt said.
A defensive stop ensued, and Gerber split two free throws near the end of the quarter to give Garaway a 26-23 lead.
Rothacher worked her way into the paint for a score on the first possession of the fourth quarter. Then both teams went completely silent on offense as the defenses took charge.
It wouldn’t be until there was 1:55 left in the quarter that Indian Valley would break the scoreless spell when Rostad hit a jumper. Regula then hit a free throw, but her second make was wiped away when a teammate jumped into the lane too quickly.
With just over one minute to play, Dyer split a pair of free throws to make it 29-26, and Indian Valley had to foul as the Lady P’s continued to run the clock.
Gerber canned two free throws to make it 31-26, and Indian Valley had a great look at a 3-pointer and another on the offensive put-back, but both rimmed out, and the Braves came up empty.
#IVvGARgbb With 50 seconds left Braves have this shot to make it a one possession game but can’t get it to go. Garaway goes 9-of-11 from the line late and hangs on for a 37-26 win @OhioTicket pic.twitter.com/RmPdRqsTf9
— OhioSportsTicket.com (@OhioTicket) December 8, 2018
“I was excited to see us in that position, but we just couldn’t get it to go down at the end, and then we had to foul, and they made their free throws,” Emler said of the tight end to the game.
While Garaway struggled mightily from the floor, they were as good as gold down the stretch from the free throw line, where Gerber and Johnson made 9-of-11 free throws to ice the game away.
“The silver lining to all of this is that we hit free throws down the stretch when we needed to,” Shutt said. “There were times tonight when it felt like we were in the Twilight Zone. I kept telling the guys on the bench that sooner or later we’d start making shots, but we never did. But give them credit too. That is a much-improved Indian Valley team, and a win is a win. We’ll take it. To hold them to 27 is a really good defensive effort for us.”
Johnson led the Lady Pirates in scoring and rebounding, knocking down 10 points while also securing a team-high seven rebounds. Gerber tallied 10 points as she marched to the free throw line several times late and converted. Rothacher and Mullet both added six points apiece while the high-scoring Regula was held to just three total points. Rostad paced Indian Valley with 10 points while Emily Love added six, and Garaway’s defense held Bardall to just three points.
Garaway made just 2-of-18 three-point attempts, went just 9-of-26 on action shots and was 11-of-44 overall. From the line Garaway hit on just 14-of-22 free throws, but when they really needed it most, they made 9-of-11.