By Craig Dunn
Editor’s note: Sporting Pumpkin appreciates the authorization to use this story from our friends at the Logan-Hocking Times, the top source of news and sports coverage in Hocking County.
CIRCLEVILLE — With the Logan Chiefs having cut a 12-point deficit to four and threatening to get even closer in the waning moments, clutch plays by junior Faith Yancey and sophomore Maddux Bigam would help preserve a Circleville victory Wednesday night.
A Yancey steal and layup kept Logan from cutting deeper into that four-point differential, then a big offensive rebound by Bigam off a missed free throw resulted in a Gabby McConnell layup with 47 seconds left.
Circleville would then make six-straight free throws in the final 37 seconds to earn a hard-fought 47-37 victory over the Lady Chiefs in Horizon Gymnasium.
The Chiefs (2-6) led 12-7 after the first quarter but Circleville (5-2) outscored the Purple & White 16-5 in the second stanza to take the lead for good.
But although they built their 12-point lead in the third period, the Tigers went stone-cold to open the fourth quarter as the Logan girls scrapped their way back into the game.
Starting in the second quarter, “I thought we did a better job of being disciplined and executing what we wanted to do against Logan,” said Circleville coach Brian Bigam. “In that first quarter, they hit us with two or three back-doors by us not doing what we’re supposed to and they got three offensive-rebound putbacks.
“We wanted to pack (the defense) in against them and try to make them beat us outside the paint,” he continued. “The first quarter we didn’t do that, but I thought the second quarter we did a much better job of that.”
Logan was playing without its primary long-distance shooter, sophomore Josie Sigler, who missed the game due to illness. As a result, the Chiefs didn’t make a single three-point basket.
“The first quarter we executed pretty well both offensively and defensively,” said Logan coach Jeff Herchek. “But we’ve been struggling to put four quarters together, and the second quarter this time is the one that got us and put us behind the eight ball. We scored five and gave up 16 and you’re playing from behind. And we kind of came out a little lax in the third and that put us in a deeper hole.
“I think we did a pretty good job of fighting back,” he added, “but the hole was just too deep. Not having Sigler, we didn’t really have a consistent three-point threat. She’s always good for one or two, and we didn’t hit any.”
Sophomore Danika Mahaffey tied Circleville junior Gabby McConnell for game scoring honors with 15 points, with sophomore post Makayla Daubenmire adding nine for Logan. Yancey had 12 points and five steals for Circleville and freshman Maddie Blakeman had 10 points and four scoring feeds.
Mahaffey scored a half-dozen of her points in the opening eight minutes as the Chiefs garnered a 12-7 advantage by scoring off back-door plays and getting some nice put-backs, as coach Bigam noted, to take an early lead.
But Circleville got the first six points of the second period, netting 12 of the next 15 points, to take the lead for good. A couple nifty left-handed drives to the tin by McConnell keyed the outburst and senior Morgan Blakeman also delivered assists on buckets by Maddux Bigam and Yancey.
The Chiefs were down 23-17 at halftime but a power-move bucket by Daubenmire and a Mollie Landis bucket off the baseline quickly got Logan back in the game.
But, after McConnell tripled for Circleville and Mahaffey canned a rebound shot for Logan, the Tigers went on a 9-0 run to open a 35-23 advantage, with a pair of Maddie Blakeman buckets, another McConnell trifecta and a Yancey layup off a McConnell helper doing the damage, late in the quarter.
Logan closed within 37-28 at the end of the third, getting a buzzer-beating drive through the lane from sophomore Kinsey Myers (seven points, two assists) to trim the Circleville lead just under double digits.
“At the beginning of the third quarter we talked about trying to build our lead to try to get double digits by the end of the third quarter and for the most part we did,” coach Bigam said. “The last minute or two (of the game) we didn’t execute (on offense), but I thought we sat down and did what we were supposed to do defensively.”
After Mahaffey scored on a layup early in the fourth quarter, the game turned into missed opportunity after missed opportunity for both teams, neither of which scored for almost five minutes, before Daubenmire found Mahaffey with a nice scoring pass under the bucket for a layup to close Logan within 37-32 with 2:05 remaining.
Logan then got possession, but Yancey made her steal out on top and finished it off with a layup with 1:24 left for Circleville’s first basket of the final stanza and a 39-32 advantage.
Daubenmire made a free throw, then freshman Ava Nihiser scored off a sweet feed from fellow ninth-grader Claire Warren to draw the Lady Chiefs within 39-35 with 52 seconds remaining.
It looked like Logan might have a chance to get a little closer when the Tigers missed a free throw with 51 seconds left, but Bigam not only controlled the offensive board, out-battling a couple Logan defenders, but quickly fed the ball to McConnell underneath for a crucial layin and a 41-35 Circleville edge with 47.2 seconds left.
The Chiefs didn’t give up. Warren drove the lane for a basket with 39 seconds left, again closing the gap to four points, but Circleville netted six-straight free throws — Yancey converted both ends of a one-and-one and Maddie Blakeman netted four-straight off a pair of two-shot situations — for the 10-point victory.
“We did hit our last six free throws, but prior to that we really struggled at the line,” said coach Bigam, whose Tigers were just 4-of-15 prior to those final 37 seconds. “Faith Yancey and Maddux Bigam made two fantastic hustle plays. Faith gets a steal to get us back up six and Maddux does a great job getting a tip to Gabby and Gabby gets a basket off the missed free throw.
“Those were two hustle plays that we’re accustomed to out of those two girls,” he added. “I thought that was huge out of them. (Logan) cut it to four and Faith made a fantastic play on the ball and finished on the other end, and when it was six Maddux did a great job tipping the ball to Gabby that allowed us to breathe and essentially we started making our free throws to put it away.”
Bigam gave the Chiefs props for their play.
“I’ve seen Logan play twice and they’re extremely scrappy,” he said. “We knew that coming in that they were a scrappy, gritty bunch of girls.”
“We had some key missed rebounds that they turned into and-ones or points,” Herchek noted. “We haven’t really played a lot of games of this nature where they’re down to the wire and we have to claw back, so this is a little bit different for us. I was proud of what they did because we really haven’t had to get up and press somebody off of a made basket or out of a time-out.
“We did okay trying to scramble for points a couple of times but again, not having that three-point threat hurt,” he continued. “Their idea was to pack it in, which was smart.”
The Chiefs host a couple former Southeastern Ohio Athletic League rivals when they host Zanesville on Saturday and Jackson on Monday. Meanwhile, the Tigers now gear up for an important Mid-State League Buckeye Division tilt on Friday night at Teays Valley.
“We have a big league game against Teays Valley on Friday at their place,” Bigam said. “Hopefully we can use the last couple games (both wins) and carry some of this over.”
Circleville 47, Logan 37
LOGAN 37 (2-6) — Ava Nihiser 1-0-2, Danika Mahaffey 7 1-5 15, Kinsey Myers 3 1-1 7, Ryann Landis 0, Kalli Straus 0, Claire Warren 1-0-2, Mollie Landis 1-0-2, Makenzie Daubenmire 3 3-4 9. Totals 16 5-10 37. 3-pt FG: none.
CIRCLEVILLE 47 (5-2) — Morgan Blakeman 2-0-4, Faith Yancey 5 2-2 12, Makya Cockerham 0 4-10 4, Maddie Blakeman 3 4-7 10, Maddux Bigam 1-0-2, Isabelle Perini 0, Gabby McConnell 6 0-2 15. Totals 17 10-21 47. 3-pt FG: McConnell 3.
FG: Logan 16-40 (.400), Circleville 17-41 (.415). 3-pt FG: Logan 0-5, Circleville 3-11 (.273). FT: Logan 5-10 (.500), Circleville 10-21 (.476). Rebounds: Logan 31 (Warren 7, Daubenmire 7, Mahaffey 4), Circleville 28 (McConnell 7, Yancey 5, Cockerham 4, Bigam 4). Assists: Logan 8 (Myers, Warren and M. Landis 2 each), Circleville 11 (Maddie Blakeman 4, Yancey 2, McConnell 2, Morgan Blakeman 2). Steals: Logan 8 (Mahaffey 3), Circleville 12 (Yancey 5, Morgan Blakeman 3). Turnovers: Logan 19, Circleville 15. Fouls: Logan 19, Circleville 11. JV: Circleville 28, Logan 27.