By Brad Morris
Circleville coach Brian Bigam is the first to admit that sometimes the Tigers don’t play the prettiest game around.
But it’s hard to argue with the results.
The host Tigers held off a late charge on Friday to defeat Frontier Athletic Conference champion Jackson 52-48 in a non-league game.
“Our defense had more holes than I would liked tonight and we struggled at the free throw line (6 of 17 shooting for 35.3 percent), which allowed Jackson to stay in the game,” Bigam said. “But every time Jackson tried to make a run, one of our girls had an answer and never allowed them to tie or take the lead.
“That’s the nice thing about this group, they play hard together and they usually find a way to win, like they did again tonight.”
Maddie Blakeman led all scorers with 20 points, Gabby McConnell followed with 12 points, Faith Yancey had 10 and Morgan Blakeman chipped in eight in her last regular-season game on the Horizon Gymnasium parquet hardwood.
“We’re a tough team to defend, because we have four girls who have scored 20 points or more at some point this season,” Bigam said. “If you try and take one of them away, there are still three more that you have to contend with.”
The Tigers jumped out to a quick 19-14 lead.
McConnell drained a pair of three-pointers and finished the quarter with eight points, and Yancey and Maddie Blakeman scored a pair of traditional field goals apiece.
Maddie Blakeman helped the Tigers stretch their advantage to 24-14 early in the second quarter by nailing a triple and then taking a feed from her older sister Morgan and connecting on a layup.
Circleville went into the break with a 28-20 lead, but Jackson came out in the third quarter and cut its deficit to 32-29, capped by an old-fashioned three-point play by TJ Carpenter.
The Tigers countered with Yancey scoring on a drive from the right baseline and McConnell beating the buzzer with a triple from about five-feet above the top of the key to take a 37-30 lead into the fourth quarter.
“Gabby helped us get off to a good start with a nice first quarter and then she swished that three to end the third, and that was a big momentum shot to push our lead back out to seven,” Bigam praised.
Maddie Blakeman took over in the fourth, scoring nine of her game-high 20 points, to help the Tigers secure their 18th victory of the season.
“Maddie attacked the basket, she knocked down a few jumpers, she hit a few threes and did a little bit of everything scoring wise,” Bigam said. “She led us there in the fourth and helped put us over the top.”
TJ Carpenter scored 18 points, and Sydney Carpenter and Mattie Walburn added nine apiece for the Ironladies (15-7).
The Tigers won eight more games than they did a season ago, have won 13 of their last 14 games, and finished tied for second in the Mid-State League Buckeye Division.
“Our girls have been committed since they came in three days a week during the summer to lift weights, summer basketball and then continuing to work hard during the season,” Bigam said. “They’ve bought into what we are trying to do, they’ve been amazing for the most part in our 2-3 zone during the second half of the season and they are a good group to be around.”
Circleville (18-4) now prepares to host Waverly (16-6) on Thursday for a sectional final.
“Thirty-four wins has to be some sort of record for an eighth-seed playing a ninth-seed in the first game of the tournament,” Bigam said. “Our district is so loaded that we get a tough game right out of the shoot against a very solid Waverly team.
“We’ll give the girls the weekend off and then get back at it with hopefully three good practices before Thursday.”
JACKSON — Sydney Carpenter 3-2-9, TJ Carpenter 4-10-18, Mattie Walburn 3-3-9, Sydney Hughes 1-0-2, Kenzie Davis 4-0-10. Three-point goals — Davis (2) and Sydney Carpenter. Total — 15 15-19 48.
CIRCLEVILLE — Morgan Blakeman 2-3-8, Faith Yancey 5-0-10, Maddie Blakeman 9-0-20, Isabelle Perini 0-2-2, Gabby McConnell 4-1-12. Three-point goals — McConnell (3), Maddie Blakeman (2) and Morgan Blakeman. Total —20 6-17 52.
Quarter scores 1 2 3 4 F
Jackson 14 6 10 18 48
Circleville 19 9 9 15 52