Tigers ride strong start to win over Panthers

By Brad Morris

A quick start on Wednesday allowed Circleville to bounce back from its first regular-season defeat since 2018 and cruise past visiting Hilliard Darby 52-35 in a non-league game.

Circleville’s Kenzie McConnell led all scorers with 20 points and also pulled down 15 rebounds. Photos by Brad Morris/SportingPumpkin.com

“That’s the first time we had lost a regular-season game for awhile, so we felt like it was important to come out here and get off to a good start and get some early momentum going for our kids,” Circleville coach Steve Kalinoski said.

The 49-45 loss two days earlier at Alexander was the first time the Tigers had played in 20 days due to a COVID-19 quarantine. Circleville rallied back from 11 down to take a 20-19 halftime lead, but Kalinoski felt the team expended so much energy during the comeback that they didn’t have enough left in the tank after the long layoff and limited practicing.

“We challenged the girls to get off to a good start and to be in a better position for the second half,” Kalinoski said.

Kalinoski didn’t have to worry about a repeat on Wednesday, as the Tigers drained 9 of 18 (50 percent) shots in the opening stanza to take a commanding 18-2 lead.

Senior Kenzie McConnell led the way with 10 points, six rebounds and a pair of blocks during the run and senior Jaylah Captain chipped in four points.

Circleville’s Jaylah Captain hits a runner for two of her 14 points.

“I felt like we did a nice job of running our offense in the first quarter and getting the ball inside to Kenzie,” Kalinoski said.

The Tigers held the Panthers to just 1 of 9 (11.1 percent) shooting in the first quarter – a layup by Bella Heaton with 75 seconds off the clock – and also forced six turnovers.

“We watched Hilliard Darby on television in its first three games, but we didn’t know as much about them as we normally would. We just picked them up a couple of weeks ago,” Kalinoski said. “Our kids played hard defensively and did a nice job of getting stops and transitioning that into success at the other end of the court.”

Heaton ended a scoring drought of nine minutes and 15 minutes for the Panthers by finding the bottom of the hoop again.

The Tigers extended their lead to 31-13 at halftime, thanks to Captain leading the way with six points and McConnell adding four in the second quarter.

Kalinoski felt the Tigers were sloppy in the third quarter as they committed five turnovers and shot just 3 of 9 (33.3 percent) from the field.

“We challenged our girls to take care of the basketball at halftime, but I felt we were sloppy and forced some things there in the third quarter and, overall, didn’t do a very good job of running our offense,” he said. “We were substituting some different players in, but we are going to have to play more people with all of the games we’re going to have over the next six weeks.”

Circleville found its offensive groove again to open the fourth with four different players scoring on its first four possessions to stretch the lead to 48-23.

Circleville’s Lily Winter looks to grab a rebound.

McConnell paced the Tigers with a double-double of 20 points and 15 rebounds to go with five blocks, four assists and three steals. Captain chipped in 14 points.

Ashley Cox had 14 points and Heaton added six for the Panthers (1-3).

Circleville finished the game 23 of 45 (51.1 percent) from the field, compared to Hilliard Darby hitting on 13 of 46 (28.3 percent) attempts.

The Tigers held a 33-22 advantage on the boards and had 12 turnovers compared to 14 for the Panthers.

Circleville (4-1) returns to action on Saturday afternoon when it hosts Jackson for a non-league tilt.

Circleville 52,
Hilliard Darby 35

HILLIARD DARBY — Sofia Gentile 1-0-3, Lexi Goff 2-0-5, Ashley Cox 5-2-14, Emily Thomas 0-1-1, Alexis Finnegan 0-2-2, Bella Heaton 3-0-6, Tayen Brown 2-0-4. Three-point goals — Ashley Cox (2), Sofia Gentile and Lexi Goff. Total — 13-46 5-10 35.
CIRCLEVILLE — Logan Jones 2-0-5, Morgan Blakeman 1-0-2, Gabby McConnell 2-0-5, Lily Winter 2-0-4, Jaylah Captain 7-0-14, Kenzie McConnell 9-2-20, Alaina Francis 0-2-2. Three-point goals — Logan Jones and Gabby McConnell. Total — 23-45 4-10 52.
Quarter scores 1 2 3 4 F
Hil. Darby 2 11 7 15 35

Circleville 18 13 9 12 52

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