By Brad Morris
While the personnel has changed quite a bit for both teams, Circleville coach Steve Kalinoski couldn’t help but think that this year’s tournament meeting with the Logan Elm Braves had a resemblance to the one from last season, when the Tigers had to claw their way to a 47-38 win.
“When you play Logan Elm for a third time and in the tournament, you figure that you may have to grind it out,” he said. “Logan Elm was very patient running its offense, worked the clock and slowed the game down. It was tough to watch, at times, but it was an effective strategy.”
The Tigers didn’t light up the scoreboard as they would have liked, but turned to their defense to hold the visiting Braves to no field goals over a 17-minute stretch of the first and second halves Thursday on their way to a 38-25 Division II Southeast District sectional final victory.
The third-seeded Tigers (15-2) advanced through sectional play for a third consecutive season and are slated to host a district semifinal on Tuesday against either McClain or River Valley.
Kenzie McConnell posted a double-double of 14 points and 11 rebounds to go with four blocks to lead the Tigers. Morgan Blakeman and Gabby McConnell followed with seven points apiece.
The Braves (5-13) took an 8-5 lead during the first quarter, powered by a pair of three-pointers from Josie Martin and Riley Schultz and a stick back courtesy of Ashton Fox.
The Fox basket turned out to be the last field the Braves scored until less than a minute remained in the third quarter.
Circleville rattled off the last four points of the period with Kenzie McConnell connecting on a pair of free throws, then dishing to Blakeman for a layup, to put the Tigers ahead 9-8 entering the second quarter.
The Pickaway County rivals combined for just nine points in the second period, with a free throw by Anna Johnson accounting for the lone point of the quarter for the Braves.
Circleville carried a 17-9 lead into the third quarter and ran off the first 10 points of the half. Kenzie McConnell had four points during the run and Faith Yancey took a feed from Blakeman for a layup to close the decisive surge that put the Tigers ahead 27-9.
“It wasn’t our best game, but we still defended pretty well and that gave our offense enough time to put a couple of little spurts together,” Kalinoski said. “When you can hold a team to nine points in a half then that’s a pretty good effort.”
After 15 straight missed shots, Brynn Griffith ended the field goal drought for the Braves with back-to-back baskets off the right block, sending Logan Elm into the fourth trailing 29-13.
Logan Elm trimmed its deficit to as few as nine at 31-22 after a free throw from Martin, but that’s as close it was able to come.
Martin paced the Braves with nine points, Griffith had six and Schultz added five.
“Brynn’s a tough matchup at 6-foot-5 and we weren’t pleased with how many points (13) we gave up to her last time, so we worked the last couple of days of sliding in a backside player to help out,” Kalinoski said.
Both teams struggled from the field, with the Tigers shooting 11 of 37 (29.7 percent) and the Braves going 10 of 38 (26.3 percent). The difference was at the free throw line, with the Tigers going 14 of 18 (77.8 percent) to the Braves’ 2 of 6 (33.3 percent).
Logan Elm had 18 turnovers to 16 for Circleville.
“It was kinda a sloppy game offensively for us,” Kalinoski said. “We had way too many turnovers and we also struggled knocking down shots.”
Logan Elm 25
LOGAN ELM — Josie Martin 3-1-9, Riley Schultz 2-0-5, Anna Johnson 1-1-3, Ashton Fox 1-0-2, Brynn Griffith 3-0-6. Three-point goals — Martin (2) and Schultz. Total — 10-38 2-6 25.
CIRCLEVILLE — Faith Yancey 1-1-3, Logan Jones 0-2-2, Alaina Francis 1-0-2, Morgan Blakeman 1-5-7, Gabby McConnell 3-0-7, Lily Winter 1-0-3, Kenzie McConnell 4-6-14. Three-point goals — Gabby McConnell and Winter. Total — 11-37 14-18 38.
Quarter scores 1 2 3 4 F
Logan Elm 8 1 4 12 25
Circleville 9 8 12 9 38
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