By Brad Morris
When Circleville tried to make a run in the fourth quarter on Tuesday, Emily Buckley provided an answer on every occasion.
The Amanda-Clearcreek senior wing scored nine of her game-high 17 points in the final stanza to help the Aces grind out a 40-37 Mid-State League Buckeye Division win over the host Tigers.
“Emily did what a senior is supposed to do in a critical situation like what we faced in the fourth quarter. She stepped up and made big shots and made big plays,” Amanda-Clearcreek coach Tim Leist said. “I’ve had the privilege of coaching Emily since she was a freshman, and I’m super proud of the way she stepped up and led us to a big road win over a good Circleville team.”
Buckley also added seven rebounds to her final stat line. Freshman guard Taylor Evans followed with 10 points and dished out five assists.
Circleville (3-2, 2-2) scored the first six points of the fourth quarter to take a 30-29 lead following a layup from Maddie Blakeman.
Buckley provided the first response by taking a feed from Evans and draining a three-pointer in the left corner to put the Aces back in the lead.
The Tigers tied the score again at 32-32 on a runner by Faith Yancey and 35-35 with a three-pointer from the right corner courtesy of Gabby McConnell.
Buckley responded both times with another triple to the right of the top of the key and then drained a jumper to give the Aces the lead for good at 37-35 with 3:40 remaining.
“Buckley was the difference in the fourth quarter,” Circleville coach Brian Bigam said. “She stepped up and made some really big plays for Amanda.
“We didn’t switch off on defense a couple of times there and she really made us pay for it.”
The A-C senior added her final point when she split a pair of free throws with 2:30 remaining.
Circleville scored what turned out to be its final points of the night when Maddie Blakeman fed Maddux Bigam for a layup from the right block that trimmed the A-C lead to one point with 2:20 remaining.
That’s where the score stayed until Evans calmed drained a pair of free throws with 16.1 seconds remaining to give the Aces a 40-37 lead.
“There is no one that works harder than Taylor,” Leist said. “She was in the gym at 6:30 this morning working on her shooting, and there was no one I’d whether have at the line in that situation than Taylor.
“She had ice water in her veins and made two big free throws.”
A three-point attempt by the Tigers missed the mark, with A-C’s Hailey Sowers being fouled with nine-tenths of a second left to seal the win.
The evening started rough for the Aces, who trailed 15-12 after a quarter of play, and lost the services of junior forward Grace Davis for the rest of the night due to an injury.
Amanda-Clearcreek (4-2, 3-1) employed a three-quarter court pressure starting in the second quarter that checked the Tigers to just a pair of free throws by Makya Cockerham in the period.
“It was a tough blow to lose Grace early in the game, but I’m proud of the way our team came together and the resiliency that they played with,” Leist said. “We’ve extended our defense and put some pressure on at different times this season and it made (Circleville) uncomfortable there in the second quarter and changed the pace of the game.”
Circleville shot 0 of 11 from the field and had five turnovers.
“We were well prepared for the game and got off to a good start there in the first quarter and then we just struggled with our execution on both offense and defense after that,” Bigam said. “We’re turning the ball over way too much right now; we’re struggling at the free throw line, and we have some areas that we are going to have to really work on.”
The Aces amassed a 12-2 run in the period, led by a pair of baskets from Megan Tooill, to take a 24-17 lead into halftime.
After being held without a field goal for nine minutes and 39 seconds, the Tigers held the Aces without a made basket for eight minutes and 31 seconds until Evans drained a three-pointer with 19 seconds left in the third quarter that put A-C ahead 29-24 going into the final period of play.
Both teams finished with 18 turnovers, while the Tigers held a 26-16 advantage on the glass.
Morgan Blakeman paced the Tigers with 11 points, Maddie Blakeman tallied 10, and Gabby McConnell and Faith Yancey added five apiece. McConnell also added eight rebounds and three assists.
Both teams continue league play on Saturday, as the Aces travel to unbeaten Bloom-Carroll (5-0, 3-0) and the Tigers host Liberty Union (2-3, 1-2).
AMANDA-CLEARCREEK — Emily Buckley 5-4-17, Rachel Weaver 2-0-4, Megan Tooill 2-0-4, Hailey Sowers 1-0-2, Taylor Evans 2-4-10, Addy Pugh 1-1-3. Three-point goals — Emily Buckley (3) and Taylor Evans (2). Total — 13-34 9-16 40.
CIRCLEVILLE — Morgan Blakeman 3-4-11, Faith Yancey 2-1-5, Makya Cockerham 0-2-2, Maddie Blakeman 5-0-10, Maddux Bigam 2-0-4, Gabby McConnell 2-0-5. Three-point goals — Morgan Blakeman and Gabby McConnell. Total — 14-43 7-13 37.
Quarter scores 1 2 3 4 F
Am.-Clearcreek 12 12 5 11 40
Circleville 15 2 7 13 37