Trailing 15-8 after the first quarter, 10-1 Tri-Village flashed its goods down the stretch to put Division III Arcanum away in WOAC women’s basketball.
Arcanum, OH – Arcanum coach Abby Moore and her young Trojans had the defending champs in Division IV right where they wanted them…before the reality of four quarters of basketball set in, and an eventual 46-32 Tri-Village win Thursday night.
An impressive first eight minutes of Thursday’s Western Ohio Athletic Conference matchup between Arcanum and Tri-Village perhaps opened some eyes. Arcanum, after all, is youthful as well as talented, and by rights probably a year away from really hitting its stride.
But no one, especially Moore, had told them they were young and inexperienced, just that if they played with energy and executed they had a chance against Tri-Village, with senior 6’3″ post player Kynnedi Hager and a revamped supporting cast from last year’s OHSAA title team. And indeed, after those first eight minutes they led Tri-Village, 15-8, and the energy could have powered a Saturn rocket.
“We had a terrible practice yesterday,” Patriots coach Brad Gray later confessed. “To be honest, I told them at the end of practice that if we hadn’t been playing today I would have kicked them out of practice. And then we come out today and started the game the way we practiced yesterday. But, I’ll say that from that point on I was really proud of how our kids played. To be down seven points at the end of the first quarter, and then to win by 14, the last three quarters we turned it on. Our defensive effort was really good tonight.”
Games like this are easy to capsulize. Competition is sometimes relevant to mustering the courage to stand up to the class bully. Throwing the first punch is great, but you better make it count, and you’d better be ready for the counter-punch. That, as it turned out, was Arcanum’s undoing.
Tri-Village (10-1) came out in the second quarter and immediately went on a 12-2 run, wiping out the Arcanum advantage and replacing some of that energy with some doubt, as the Patriots went to the locker room with a 24-21 halftime lead.
Tri-Village then followed with another a 16-6 stretch to begin the third quarter, extending their lead to 40-27, and for all intents it was game, set, match.
The Patriots used their interior size with Hager to shut down high percentage shots at the rim.
On offense TV used Hager (12 pts) to score, or kick the ball back out to wide-open shooters if the Trojan defense collapsed around her. Both worked.
And if you’re reading and remembering that this same team ran the table last year – 30 wins without a loss – to capture the Division IV title, it is a different team. That one had Rylee Sagester, Morgan Hunt, and Tori Richards, all graduated. But there is a semblance. There is a culture of developing talent, and that culture kicked in over the final two quarters as the Patriots ran, played with confidence, and avoided another tough practice on Friday.
“We talked about it in the locker room,” said Gray. “We thought if we could get the margin to ten in the third we had a chance to put them away. Our kids were really focused with sitting down and guarding, not doing crazy things like we did in the first half, and we were a lot better in the third quarter.
“And offensively, Kynnedi was able to get it going in the second half.”
There’s always two sides to a story like this, and Abby Moore was as frustrated with the quick second quarter turnaround as Brad Gray was delighted.
“Oh, they’re beatable,” said Moore. “110%. If we play that ballgame again some things would be different. We came out of the gate and executed what we wanted to do, we knocked their socks off a bit, but a few things didn’t go our way and it allowed them to go on a big run. Unfortunately we weren’t able to stop that run and it became too big a hole for us.
“We’ve been in these situations before and I wasn’t worried about the girls because we’ve been able to make some big plays and get out of it. But tonight our big plays got taken away at crucial points of the game, and we’ve got to learn and adjust. We’ve got to do a better job on the boards. Their offensive rebounds killed us and if we learn to take care of those things we’re in a different position.”
Kynnedi Hager led Tri-Village with 12 points, while Bella Black had 9, Tai Mize had 8, and Kiersten Wilcox had 7.
Lexy Gibbons led Arcanum scorers with 11 points, with Matty Noe and Ashlyn Miller each adding 6 points. Rylee Leeper, Brooke Anderson, and Caroline Long combined for the Trojans’ remaining 9 points. The Trojans drop to 8-3.
“The more we play the better we’re going to be, that’s where we’re at,” added Gray as area teams face January conference play, and soon, the halfway point of their schedule.
“We’re finally getting back to full strength, the Hines girl is about to join the team and she’s going to help us. Once we have her we can do some things defensively that we’re not ready to do yet. And Kenna Wilcox, our freshman off the bench, is getting better each time out. She has such a competitive nature and a lot of ‘want to’.
“Our young kids, when we get to February, are going to look like sophomores and juniors, not freshmen and sophomores.”
Come February, they should make it interesting again.
“We hope. We sure hope,” said Gray.