For the fourth consecutive season, the West Holmes Lady Knights basketball team needs to make special post-season travel plans.
Hotel bookings need called in, transportation needs coordinated, meal plans organized and of course the most important thing, game plans need drawn up.
Destination of the trip? Columbus, Ohio. There is a good chance they know the way to get there.
By knocking off Maysville for the third straight time, in three straight years, in the same hot gym, in the same Div. II Regional Final, the Lady Knights have some packing to do this week.
On Friday, March 13 at Zanesville High School it was a familiar match-up between a pair of juggernauts in Div. II the past few seasons. And like the two previous times around, West Holmes was the victor. This time with a 42-34 win over the Panthers.
The three seniors on the West Holmes squad (Alex Brown, Alex Starr and Kennady Miller) will now be making their fourth and final trip to state. Something no other area team has done. Ever.
“Those seniors are the first group that’s going to play four years in Columbus,” said West Holmes coach Lisa Patterson after the big win. “What an accomplishment. They spend many hours in the gym and do it so quietly. They go to work.”
The Lady Knights certainly brought their lunch boxes with them for this one.
Especially in the first quarter.
The historic night started with some putrid shooting from the field for both teams as they tried to thwart some jitters in front of the big crowd.
West Holmes(24-3) stymied Maysville(25-2) in the first quarter blocking three shots and not allowing one point to the Panthers in the opening stanza.
“We played tremendous defense pretty much the entire game,” said Patterson about shutting out Maysville in the first. “There were a couple of collapses where we didn’t help when we needed to. We played great defense early and we made free throws at the end. I think those were two really important parts to the win.”
Hannah Clark’s 3-pointer(video) for West Holmes opened the scoring with 5:31 to go in the first. Sophomore Kacie Leppla then provided some offense off the bench, scoring the next four points on a sweet pass from Brown and a pair of freebies.
Clark hit again, from two this time, to give the Knights nine in the first and the Panthers put up the goose egg. (vid)
Remember that juggernaut talk? A return punch was inevitable from Maysville.
It happened and it came with fury.
The Panthers scored ten straight to open the second quarter, starting with a Kendal Kirkbride trey that finally got Maysville off the snide. They’d score seven more unanswered capped with a Brooke Smith triple.
Clark would stop the bleeding, scoring the next five points for West Holmes and in the game. A Kori Sidwell smooth step-back jumper answered Clark, but the Lady Knights still led 14-12 at half.
The pace in the first half was furious, but made baskets were few and far between. Maysville’s lowest scoring game this season was 34 against Philo. Their only other loss.
West Holmes was holding them way under that after two quarters.
“It was better for us,” said Patterson about the quick pace of the game. “They want to put points on the board and get out on the fast break. That was another thing that we wanted to take away. Their transition points.”
Three lead changes took place in the third period along with three ties.
West Holmes’ Leppla twins combined for four points to put the Lady Knights up 25-20, its biggest lead since the 9-0 start.
It was erased faster than the previous West Holmes lead.
The crafty Panther, Sidwell, scored a bucket and Callie Tatman ripped a 3-pointer with nine seconds left the third to tie things up going to the fourth quarter 25 apiece.
Sidwell was nasty-good on offense, giving the Lady Knights fits in third and keeping the Panthers right where the wanted to be all season. Going into the fourth quarter with the Lady Knights, with a trip to Columbus on the table.
“We thought we had to keep either Sidwell or Smith in check. Or both if we were lucky enough, but we kept one in check,” said Patterson about the two dangerous Panther scorers. “Those were a hard-earned six points Smith got.”
Sidwell gave the Panthers the lead on Maysville’s first possession of the fourth. Macaulay, who had been taxed with guarding Sidwell, found her offensive groove after scoring zero first half points. The junior poured in the next four points for West Holmes, two from the foul line and a running right-hander off glass.
West Holmes took a 31-29 lead and then started shooting a ton of free throws. The Lady Knights shot 14 fourth quarter free throws and knocked down 11 of them. (For the game West Holmes was 20-for-26)
Maysville shot one in the final period. It came on a Kirkbride 3-point play that made it 39-34 with two minutes to play.
Starr and Clark made three of those 11 free throws with under a minute to play to close out the win. The West Holmes depth may be a reason they had the legs to spin in some free throws late.
“We can go a little deeper on our bench then they can,” said Patterson. “I think that helps. It was a war. We knew there was going to be some blood shed and some tears shed both.”
Tears of joy again for West Holmes. Something they’re getting use to.
Coach Patterson is looking forward to making some new memories with this group.
“It’s going to be a fun trip. I’m thrilled for the kids,” said Patterson.
The Lady Knights will now take on another familiar team, the Lady Knights of Kettering Archbishop Alter. West Holmes beat Alter last year in Div. II’s final game.
They’ll meet in the semi-final this year on Friday March 20 at 1 p.m. at the Jerome Schottenstein Center. Alter whooped Tipp City Tippecanoe 64-33 in its regional final game. Tippecanoe was 26-0 and No. 2 ranked team in the state in Div. II.
Sidwell and Clark each finished with 14 apiece, leading their respective teams. Brittleigh Macaulay finished with 10 points and 11 rebounds for West Holmes. Kacie Leppla added seven and each Alex had five.