Tigers stymie Vikings with zone defense

By Brad Morris


A 42-32 loss to Teays Valley in mid-December has turned into a demarcation point for the Circleville Tigers.  

Since that setback, the Tigers have increasingly fed their opposition a steady diet of 2-3 zone defense that has led to 10 wins in their last 11 games, including avenging that loss to Teays Valley with a 34-27 Mid-State League Buckeye Division win on Saturday over the visiting Vikings.

The Tigers held the Vikings to a season-low 27 points on 10 of 37 (27 percent) shooting and forced 13 turnovers.

“Our girls did a phenomenal job of executing our defensive game plan, scrambling around in our zone defense and communicating,” Circleville coach Brian Bigam said. “They played with a lot of energy from the opening tip to the final buzzer, and that’s what we needed to beat a good team like Teays Valley.

“Holding Kennedy Younkin, who can be a matchup issue being 6-foot-2 to six points, and Abby Tier, who has been playing well for them lately, scoreless, were two keys in the win. Alyssa Horsley made some shots in the first half and so did Gabrielle Watkins coming out of halftime, but we did a nice job of finding them and cutting off any further scoring.”

Circleville’s Maddux Bigam (5) and Maddie Blakeman (3) swarm Teays Valley’s Kayla Cline during the second half.

The loss dropped the Vikings (14-6, 10-3) back into a first-place tie atop the league with Bloom-Carroll (13-7, 10-3) headed into the final night of league play on Friday. Teays Valley is slated to host Liberty Union (11-8, 6-7) and Bloom-Carroll travels to Fairfield Union (8-9, 7-6). Circleville (15-4, 9-4) suddenly is just a game off the league-lead and travels to Hamilton Township (8-12, 4-9) on the same night.

“It’s been a wild league season where you have to be ready to go every night or you are going to get beat,” Bigam said. “This is a very balanced league with everyone having some good players and strengths they can use.”

Morgan Blakeman led all scorers with 14 points for the Tigers, Maddie Blakeman scored 10 points and pulled down eight rebounds and Gabby McConnell contributed six points, eight rebounds and three assists.

A 12-feet jumper from the middle of the lane by Maddie Blakeman turned out to be the final points of the third quarter with 3:11 left in the period and gave the Tigers a 23-22 lead.

Circleville scored on its first three possessions of the fourth quarter to stretch its advantage to 30-22.

Circleville’s Morgan Blakeman makes a pass to her younger sister, Maddie, for a basket during a decisive run early in the fourth quarter.

McConnell hit a three-pointer from the left corner and Maddie Blakeman followed with consecutive layups.

“Gabby’s three was a clutch shot that gave us a little room to operate and our girls built off of that with Maddie hitting a couple of shots, including a nice pass from Morgan on a backdoor cut,” Bigam said.

Teays Valley was held to just one field goal over the closing 12 minutes and 30 seconds — a put-back by Younkin with 2:09 remaining to make the score 31-27 — and three free throws — two courtesy of Watkins and one via Younkin.

Morgan Blakeman split three of six free throws over the final 97 seconds to give the Tigers the final margin for their seven-point victory.

Horsley paced the Vikings with 12 points, all scored during the first half, and Watkins tallied nine points, all scored during the second half.

Circleville finished the game 14 of 42 (33.3 percent) from the field and held a 29-23 rebounding advantage.

“(Teays Valley coach Trevor Younkin) had a nice defensive game plan getting out to guard hard around the perimeter and having Kennedy inside to change or deter shots,” Bigam said. “We knew coming in this was going to be one of those games where you have to grind it out.

“It wasn’t always pretty and we made some mistakes, but I give our girls a lot of credit for the fortitude and effort they played with for 32 minutes. They were relentless.”

Circleville’s Gabby McConnell knocks down a technical free throw during the fourth quarter.

Both teams hit the road for non-league play before deciding the league championship, as the Vikings take on state power Newark on Tuesday and the Tigers battle Chillicothe on Wednesday.

“All we can do is control what we can control and try to get as much momentum as possible going into a tough tournament,” Bigam said. “The next step in that process needs to come on Wednesday in Chillicothe.”

Circleville 34, Teays Valley 27

TEAYS VALLEY — Kennedy Younkin 2-2-6, Alyssa Horsley 5-1-12, Gabrielle Watkins 3-2-9. Three-point goals — Horsley and Watkins. Total — 10-37 5-8 27.

CIRCLEVILLE —Morgan Blakeman 5-3-14, Faith Yancey 2-0-4, Maddie Blakeman 5-0-10, Gabby McConnell 2-1-6. Three-point goals — Morgan Blakeman and McConnell. Total — 14-42 4-10 34.

Quarter scores 1 2 3 4 F
Teays Valley 4 11 7 5 27
Circleville 4 11 8 11 34

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