Circleville grinds out sectional final win over Waverly

Check out the photo gallery of Circleville’s sectional final victory

By Brad Morris

Tied for the first time since the opening moments of a Division II Southeast District sectional final on Thursday with 4:39 remaining, Morgan Blakeman knew how the Circleville Tigers needed to react.

“It was a crazy game with how physical and up-and-down the play was, but at that moment we needed to slow down and focus on executing,” she said. “(Coach Brian Bigam) always stresses that to us and it’s something I also tell myself.

“We needed to step things up on the defensive end, clamp down on Waverly and get stops or turnovers that we could use to transition into our offense.”

Circleville held Waverly to just one field goal the rest of the way and closed the game on a mini 8-3 run on its way to a 37-32 win.

“I’ve said it repeatedly all season. It’s not always pretty and we can make some mistakes out there, but when we need the girls to step up and make a key play or string together a few stops, more often than not they’ve answered the call every time this season,” Bigam said. “This team has a way of stepping up when they face adversity and finding the answer.”

The eighth-seeded Tigers (19-4) return to the district round of the tournament following a one-year absence and are slated to take on top-seeded Fairland (23-0) on Monday inside Logan High School. Tip-off is scheduled for 6:15 p.m.

Morgan Blakeman led all scorers with 14 points and also contributed nine rebounds and four steals. Gabby McConnell followed with 11 points, nine rebounds and four assists, and Maddie Blakeman and Faith Yancey scored six points apiece. Yancey also came away with five steals and Maddie Blakeman pulled down eight rebounds and chipped in three assists.

Circleville’s Morgan Blakeman drains a three during the first quarter of a sectional final win over Waverly. Photos courtesy of Scott Iles Photography

Waverly (16-7) rallied from a 29-20 deficit to open the fourth quarter with nine consecutive points. Bailey Vulgamore started the run by turning a pair of CHS turnovers into layups and Kelli Stewart had the final five points, including splitting a pair of free throws to knot the score for the first time since 0-0 with 4:39 remaining.

Morgan Blakeman split 2 of 4 free throws to put the Tigers back in front. McConnell then knocked down a short eight-foot jumper off the right baseline and later drained a pair of free throws to give Circleville a 35-29 lead with 57.6 seconds remaining.

“Gabby was very consistent all night and did a lot of different things on the floor that helped us to the win,” Bigam praised. “She was absolutely clutch down the stretch, hitting that jumper, making those two free throws and then stepping up defensively and rebounding the basketball.”

Circleville held Waverly to just 1 of 5 (20 percent) shooting down the stretch — a three off the right wing from Vulgamore that cut the CHS lead to 35-32 with 19.2 seconds remaining — that included back-to-back blocks from McConnell and Morgan Blakeman, along with forcing a pair of turnovers.

Morgan Blakeman stepped to the free throw line with 16.7 seconds remaining and calmly drained a pair of free throws to put Circleville ahead 37-32.

Yancey came away with a steal on the final Waverly possession and pulled the basketball out to drain the final seconds off the clock and send the red-and-black onto a district semifinal.

Circleville was active in its 2-3 zone to open the game, holding Waverly to 0 of 8 shooting and forcing eight turnovers to end the first quarter with a 7-0 lead.

“I felt like we were very well-prepared for Waverly and our girls were focused and ready to go from the tip,” Bigam said. “Our girls did an excellent job moving around and communicating on defense and they had a pretty good idea what they would see since we spent the last three practices working on the sets that Waverly runs.

“Faith and Morgan were very active defensively, getting into the passing lanes and coming away with some steals that led to transition offense.”

Morgan Blakeman scored the first five points of the game and Maddie Blakeman knocked down a pair of free throws.

“Morgan got us going to start the game and then she made some big free throws there in the fourth when we really needed them,” Bigam said.

A layup from Maddie Blakeman and a triple from the left-wing courtesy of McConnell stretched the CHS lead to 12-0 before Paige O’Bryant finally put Waverly on the scoreboard via a runner with 5:20 remaining before the half.

Circleville’s Gabby McConnell grabs a rebound during the fourth quarter of a 37-32 sectional final win over Waverly. Photos courtesy of Scott Iles Photography

Circleville took an 18-9 lead into halftime but saw that lead dwindle to 20-17, as it turned the ball over on its first seven possessions of the second half.

The two teams combined for 20 turnovers, 10 apiece, in the period.

“We were moving too much east-and-west offensively there in the third quarter and not enough north-and-south and attacking Waverly’s defense,” Bigam said. “Once we committed a couple of turnovers, I felt like we tightened up there a little bit and were playing not to lose instead of playing to win.”

Circleville closed the quarter on a 9-2 run, highlighted by a pair of baskets from Yancey, three points by Morgan Blakeman and a layup off the left block courtesy of Maddie Blakeman off a feed from McConnell, to take a 29-20 lead.

“The girls did a nice job of regrouping there, we forced a few turnovers that led to points and we also beat Waverly’s defense down the floor a couple of times for easy baskets or to get to the line,” Bigam said.

Circleville’s Faith Yancey scores on a breakaway layup during the third quarter. Photos courtesy of Scott Iles Photography

Vulgamore scored 13 points and Stewart added 11 for ninth-seeded Waverly.

Waverly finished the game with 26 turnovers compared to 22 for Circleville, which also held a 35-27 advantage on the glass.

Bigam saluted his lone senior, Morgan Blakeman, as she left the Horizon Gymnasium parquet floor for the final time as a winner.

“Morgan has the ability to fill it up in a hurry on offense, but what stands out the most to me about Morgan is her vocal leadership,” he said. “She keeps the other girls positive, having fun and picks them up when they need that, as well.

“She’s been a big part of how well we’ve been playing down the stretch, winning 14 of our last 15 games, and getting on this roll.”

Division II Southeast District
sectional final
No. 8 Circleville 37,
No. 9 Waverly 32

WAVERLY — Kelli Stewart 3-5-11, Caris Risner 1-1-3, Bailey Vulgamore 3-6-13, Sadie Royster 1-0-3, Paige O’Bryant 1-0-2. Three-point goals — Vulgamore and Royster. Total — 9-40 12-18 32.
CIRCLEVILLE — Morgan Blakeman 4-5-14, Faith Yancey 3-0-6, Maddie Blakeman 2-2-6, Gabby McConnell 3-3-11. Three-point goals — McConnell (2) and Morgan Blakeman. Total — 12-41 10-15 37.
Quarter scores 1 2 3 4 F
Waverly 0 9 11 12 32
Circleville 7 11 11 10 37

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: