A quick glance at the list of schools playing in next month’s Division II Southeast District tournament immediately brings two words to mind.
Loaded and deep.
With that knowledge, the Circleville Tigers traveled to The Plains on Monday to begin a critical swing with games against district opponents Athens and at Miami Trace (11-6) on Wednesday that will likely help determine how high they could be seeded.
Maddie Blakeman helped the Tigers start the stretch on the right note, dropping a game-high 23 points in a 48-34 win.
“These are two big games for us, because our district is absolutely brutal this year with the amount of very good teams that will be in the tournament,” Circleville coach Brian Bigam said. “Getting as high as we can in the seeding will be a major benefit, so going on the road and getting a big win over Athens was nice to see.”
The Tigers (12-3) used six points from Faith Yancey and a three-pointer by Morgan Blakeman to rally from an early deficit and grab a 12-11 lead after a quarter of play.
Circleville used its zone defense in the second quarter to limit Athens (10-5) to just a basket and free throw from point guard Asa Holcombe.
“We mixed our zone and man defenses in the first quarter and Athens was able to burn us a few times while we were in man,” Bigam revealed. “We went to our 2-3 zone there in the second quarter, and Athens had trouble finding rhythm on offense.
“Our girls did a nice job on the wings with reading eyes and then up top we were very active and made it tough for Athens to find an open player.”
Maddie Blakeman led the way in the quarter with five points to help the Tigers extend their lead to 24-15.
The Tigers maintained their nine-point advantage in the third, paced by Morgan and Maddie Blakeman scoring four apiece.
Maddie Blakeman then helped the Tigers put away a key win over the Tri-Valley Conference Ohio Division-leading Bulldogs by scoring 12 points in the fourth quarter.
The freshman guard made four field goals and drained 4 of 5 free throws she attempted.
“Maddie did a nice job of coming off screens and scoring along the baseline and she was also able to get to the basket,” Bigam said. “Maddie is at her best when she is getting to the basket, and she also did a nice job hitting free throws there in the fourth quarter to put the game away.”
Yancey followed Maddie Blakeman with 10 points, Morgan Blakeman had nine and Gabby McConnell added six.
Ella Chapman and Quinn Banks scored 11 points apiece to lead the Bulldogs, which dropped their second game this month to a Pickaway County opponent (lost 40-33 to Logan Elm on Jan. 3).
Circleville 48, Athens 34
CIRCLEVILLE — Morgan Blakeman 4-0-9, Faith Yancey 4-2-10, Maddie Blakeman 8-7-23, Gabby McConnell 3-0-6. Three-point goals — Morgan Blakeman. Total — 19 9-10 48.
ATHENS — Ella Chapman 5-1-11, Quinn Banks 4-0-11, Emily Zuber 2-0-4, Olivia Smart 0-1-1, Asa Holcombe 3-1-7. Three-point goals — Banks (3).. Total — 14 3-6 34.
Quarter scores 1 2 3 4 F
Circleville 13 11 8 16 48
Athens 12 3 8 11 34