By Brad Morris
Circleville took charge in the second half on Friday, outscoring host Amanda-Clearcreek 32-18 on its way to a 48-33 Mid-State League Buckeye Division win.
The Tigers (14-3, 8-3) ended a tough stretch with four wins in the last seven days and extended their winning streak to nine games.
“I can’t say enough about these girls and the way they pulled together, played with toughness and grinded out this stretch,” Circleville coach Brian Bigam said. “To win twice in the league, including avenging our loss to Amanda-Clearcreek in the first round, and to also beat two double-digit win teams in our district is very impressive.”
Bigam attributed the success the Tigers are enjoying in the second half of the regular season to the team bond.
“These girls are playing for each other and competing for each other, and that’s something this team shares with some of the better teams that I’ve coached in the past,” he said. “I also think the girls are used to what I want and what I expect after 55 practices and games. I’ll admit that I’m a very demanding coach, but I think our girls have adjusted and they are executing better than we did earlier in the season.”
The Tigers turned to their defense and checked Emily Buckley and Taylor Evans to a combined eight points. The duo scored 27 points in a 40-37 win over Circleville last month and entered the game averaging 26 points.
“Emily had the answer every time Amanda-Clearcreek needed a shot in the first meeting and Taylor also made some nice shots and key free throws for them,” Bigam said. “Our girls really did a nice job of communicating in the 2-3 zone we were running to identify where they were at and contesting everything.
“I felt like the way we scrambled around and, again, communicated, on defense made it tough for Amanda-Clearcreek to get into any type of a flow on offense.”
The Tigers put together a 15-7 third quarter to turn a one-point halftime lead into a 31-22 advantage headed into the final period of play.
Faith Yancey, Morgan Blakeman and Gabby McConnell each knocked down a three during the run, and Yancey finished the quarter with five points.
“Amanda-Clearcreek did a nice job of packing in its defense during the first half, but when Gabby, Faith and Morgan hit those threes in the third quarter, it forced them out more to guard us and that allowed us to do some different things offensively,” Bigam said.
Morgan Blakeman helped the Tigers close out the win in the fourth quarter, scoring 13 of her game-high 21 points, including making 8 of 11 (72.7 percent) free throws.
“Morgan really took charge there in the fourth,” Bigam praised. “She was absolutely clutch at the free throw line and she did a nice job of attacking.”
Maddie Blakeman scored nine of her 13 points during the first half, Yancey finished with nine and McConnell scored five.
“Maddie carried us in the first half,” Bigam said. “She was able to get to the basket and made some tough plays and shots.”
Kaylie Wilson had 11 points and Megan Tooill added 10 for the Aces (9-8, 4-6).
Both teams continue league play on Tuesday, as the Tigers travel to Liberty Union and the Aces host league co-leader Bloom-Carroll.
CIRCLEVILLE — Morgan Blakeman 5-8-21, Faith Yancey 4-0-9, Maddie Blakeman 5-2-13, Gabby McConnell 1-2-5. Three-point goals — Morgan Blakeman (3), Maddie Blakeman, Yancey and McConnell. Total — 15 12-16 48.
AMANDA-CLEARCREEK — Emily Buckley 0-2-2, Rachel Weaver 0-2-2, Megan Tooill 3-2-10, Hailey Sowers 1-0-2, Taylor Evans 2-2-6, Kaylie Wilson 4-2-11. Three-point goals — Tooill, Wilson and Evans. Total — 10 10-10 33.
Quarter scores 1 2 3 4 F
Circleville 11 5 15 17 48
Am.-Clearcreek 9 6 7 8 10 33