ARCANUM – Two of the top Western Ohio Athletic Conference girls’ basketball teams squared off Thursday night in a defensive stalwart. Arcanum held a 16-14 half-time lead, then trailed 33-29 going into the final quarter and closed the gap to 40-39 at 1-minute … but the Patriots got a couple of big free throws from Tori Richards and Rylee Sagester for a thrilling 44-39 win over the Trojans.
It’s not often that you have two great offensive teams with great offensive players get overshadowed by defense. Great offense often wins over great defense, but great defense wins championships and both teams tonight was fierce on the defensive end.
Coming into the game both teams averaged 61 points of offense a contest with Tri-Village holding a slight defensive edge with 31 points allowed and Arcanum 34 per game.
Arcanum took a 7-2 lead on a Hailey Unger triple with about 4 seconds left to go in the 1st quarter, but Torie Richards was able to answer Unger at the buzzer helping the PATS close the lead to 7-5.
In the opening quarter Arcanum found the inside to be tough sledding with 6’2” center Meghan Downing swatting away a couple of shots and Morgan Hunt also slapped a few down as well.
Meanwhile Tri-Village struggled to get anything in the half-court set as Arcanum’s Unger and Madelyn Fearon swiped 4 balls away from the Patriots resulting in a low scoring opening frame.
The offense wasn’t much better in the 2nd quarter with the defenses continuing to shine until TV received a blow on Meghan Downing’ 3rd foul. That open a gap inside for Arcanum’s Taylor Gray to go to work where she scored 6 of 8 first half points in the frame.
Rylee Sagester kept the Patriots close with 5 straight points, then Molly Scantland gave TV their first lead 12-11 on a stick back at the 3-minute mark.
Unger scored her 8th point in the half and the lead was 13-12 Arcanum, back came the PATS with Morgan Hunt’s left-handed hook to go up 14-13.
The harm and the foul finished off by Taylor Gray ended the 1st half with the Trojans taking a 16-14 lead into the break.
It was a very low scoring first half and there are those who would suggest that High School basketball needs a shot clock because that low scoring games aren’t very exciting.
I would disagree, despite it being a low scoring affair, there was plenty of action with athletic plays being made on defense and fierce competitiveness on every possession.
“I thought we were great defensively in the first half … I mean, like great. Unfortunately, we couldn’t capitalize on how well we were playing defensively.” Tri-Village coach Brad Gray said.
“We were a little uncharacteristic missing a number of easy shots in the first half but that’s more of how well they were playing, making it really hard on us. So obviously a lot of credit goes to their defense,” Gray added.
The Trojans came out of the locker room firing away to go up 21-15 prompting a quick timeout.
The Patriots responded and trailed 25-23 with 2:20 to go in the 3rd quarter before Madelyn Fearon found herself in foul trouble.
Like a good chess match it was Tri-Village turn to take advantage of the weakness.
Morgan Hunt connected on a triple to go ahead 26-25 and then Rylee Sagester penetrated the gaps scoring 4 points on runners and connected on a trey to send TV up 32-25 in just a matter of minutes prompting an Arcanum timeout.
Senior Taylor Gray answered the bell on back-to-back fielders including a fade-away to keep the Trojans close trailing 33-29 going into the final stanza.
“I thought in the third quarter, when our kids were down six, and then went from being down six to go going up seven, that run changed things pretty quickly,” Gray stated.
“When they had to take Fearon off the floor on her third foul we were able to kind of isolate Rylee a little bit to take advantage; much like they did to us when Downing was out in the first half,” Gray added.
Arcanum is a very experienced team especially with Fearon on the floor and with the senior back in the game she would knock down a big triple tying the game at 33.
The Pats jumped back ahead 37-33 but back-to-back scores from Kaitlyn Toy and Taylor Gray left them down by just a point 40-39.
Tori Richards connected on two free throws in a big-time moment to propel TV ahead again 42-39 with 50 seconds and then Morgan Hunt sealed it with two more to give Tri-Village a hard-fought win in an electric atmosphere 44-39.
“We knew it was going to be tough, we struggle playing over here and they’ve got a great atmosphere. I mean, who wouldn’t want an atmosphere like this, hats off to Arcanum for creating such an awesome atmosphere.
“I want to thank our parents and community members who came out and students’ section to support us here on the road, what an awesome environment to play in and our girls really came through and I certainly proud of them,” Gray praised.
“Hats off to our Arcanum too, I mean, what a great basketball team, they’ll win a lot of games.”
“I wasn’t rooting for them to play well tonight … but I will be the rest of the year, I hope they make a great big tournament run because coach Moore and their team deserve it,” Gray said.
“We had to work hard on both ends of the floor tonight, but it all started with our defense.”
“I thought Meghan set the tone early with her defense she had to have at least 6-8 blocked shots but once she picked up her third file, it really affected her play the rest of the way, it made her a little bit more hesitant. But defensively the player of the game for us was Tori Richards she is a flat-out eraser, I mean, give her credit the job she did on a great player like Hailey Unger was phenomenal, she had to work hard for every point she got,” Gray commended.
I also thought Rylee Sagester did an unbelievable job on Fearon as well and she really stepped up and made the plays we needed on offense; Gray complemented.
“It was key for us to slow those two down (Unger and Fearon) … but Taylor Gray had a great game for them, it’s difficult to shut everyone down on their team, Gray concluded.
Gray led the Trojans with 16 points and Hailey Unger added 11. Arcanum falls to 7-1 on the year and 3-1 in the WOAC and will play at Mississinawa on Saturday.
Tri-Village was led by Rylee Sagester’s 19 points, Morgan Hunt had 8 points, 8 rebounds and 7 blocked shots and Meghan Downing had 14 rebounds and 5 blocked shots.
The Patriot improve to 6-2 overall and 4-0 in the conference and will at Ansonia on Saturday.