ROCKSPRINGS, Ohio — After 11 unsuccessful attempts, the Lady Tornadoes finally have number 11.
The Southern girls basketball team claimed its 11th sectional title, and its first since 2004, on Thursday night in Meigs High School’s Larry R. Morrison Gymnasium. The Lady Tornadoes — a four-seed with a 15-6 regular season record — claimed a 48-40 victory over fifth-seeded Symmes Valley and will move on to the Division IV district tournament at Jackson High School, on Saturday, February 20.
The Lady Tornadoes (16-6) committed nine turnovers in the opening stanza, but held a 9-8 lead eight minutes into play.
Southern’s lead grew to five points by the midway point of the second period, but Symmes Valley (13-9) battled back to within one point, 19-18, by halftime.
The Purple and Gold held an 18-to-16 rebounding edge in the first half, but committed 13 turnovers, five more than SVHS did. Southern had 14 fewer first half field goal attempts and five fewer makes than the Lady Vikings, but the Purple and Gold were 10-of-13 from the charity stripe, while SVHS was 0-for-2.
Symmes Valley outscored Southern 6-to-4 in the opening four minutes of the second half, giving the Red and Silver their third and final lead of the night at 24-23. However, the Lady Tornadoes ended the third canto on a 14-to-6 run, highlighted by three trifectas from senior guard Ali Deem.
The Lady Vikings scored four of the first five fourth-quarter points, cutting the SHS lead to 38-34 with 5:30 remaining in regulation. SVHS never pulled closer than four in the final quarter, as Southern hit 9-of-18 free throws in the period to help seal the 48-40 victory.
Deem led Southern with 16 points in the triumph, while junior Faith Teaford had 13 points and seven rebounds. Savannah Bailey posted 11 points and nine rebounds, Jansen Wolfe scored eight points and pulled in a game-high 15 rebounds, while Haley Hill and Sierra Cleland each had three assists for the victors.
“We were able to finish and I’m really proud of them,” second-year SHS head coach Kent Wolfe said. “Basically, we run through six players and every one of them contributed very well tonight. Savannah had a career night, Ali hit key threes and Haley Hill is one of the best defenders that I have ever had in 20 years of coaching, boy or girl. Faith hit some foul shots and we expect her to do some scoring, and we expect Jansen to get some rebounds, so it all just worked out tonight. We’re very happy and we get to play another week.”
Wolfe led the SHS defense with five blocked shots and one steal, Teaford added three rejections, while Deem came up with two steals.
For the game, Southern shot 20-of-34 (58,8 percent) from the free throw line and 12-of-43 (27.9 percent) from the field, including 4-of-16 (25 percent) from beyond the arc. As a team the Purple and Gold recorded 26 defensive rebounds, 14 offensive boards, nine assists, four steals, nine blocks and 21 turnovers.
“We’ve been getting better from the free throw line in the past two-or-three games,” Coach Wolfe said. “We can shoot foul shots and it was so depressing throughout the year when we shot 40 percent, because it’s not like us to do that. You need to hit them down the stretch and we did.”
Symmes Valley — which has won three sectional titles in school history, with the most recent coming in 1992 — was led by sophomore Jensyn Shepherd with 14 points and 11 rebounds, followed by Meranda Hayes with 10 points and three assists.
Payton Walsh recorded six points and a team-high four assists, while Kaitlyn Crabtree and Kaitlyn Payne both scored four points. Breanna Brumfield rounded out the Lady Viking scoring with two points, while Sierra Ross had seven rebounds and three assists.
The Red and Silver were led defensively by Brumfield with four steals and Hayes with three, while Walsh blocked two shots.
“(Symmes Valley) was mixing 1-3-1 zone and 2-3 zone,” Coach Wolfe said. “We’ve been working on the 1-3-1 in practice and a lot of teams have been playing us 2-3 throughout the year, so I was real comfortable with that.”
The Lady Vikings — who missed all eight of their free throw tries and all 12 of their three-point attempts — shot 20-of-70 from the field, equaling 28.6 percent. The Lady Vikings finished with 22 defensive rebounds, 19 offensive rebounds, 15 assists, 16 steals, three blocks and 14 turnovers.
“Other than not shooting the ball really well, I thought (Symmes Valley) played very, very well,” Coach Wolfe said. “I’ve seen them play twice, and they’re really quick. You think you’re ahead of them, but they’re right on you. That caught us off guard early.”
These teams were scheduled to meet on January 23, in Willow Wood, but the game was cancelled due to weather.
Southern’s first district game since 2004 will be against top-seeded South Webster, which defeated Paint Valley by a 57-29 count at Northwest High School on Thursday.
Alex Hawley can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2100.