By John Bombatch
XENIA — The Xenia Buccaneers will be shooting a lot of free throws in practice this week, you can bet on that. But as long as they have future University of Toledo Rocket Unique Conner around the basket, they’ll have a chance.
The Bucs coaches weren’t going to make it official, but their stat sheets had Conner with a whopping 33 rebounds, including one with 54.5 seconds left in overtime that enabled her to score the winning basket. With that, Xenia escaped with an exciting 57-55 win over Northmont, Wednesday night at Xenia High.
Xenia converted 14 of 28 free throw tries for the game, but they hit just 2-of-7 in the overtime period. Africa Strodes hit the back end of a double-bonus situation from the line to tie things up with 1:33 left in the OT period at 55-all. Then Strodes had two more chances with 1:03 left, and missed them both.
But Conner was there to swoop in from the left side and score the put-back basket for the win.
Northmont had two more tries to tie the game, but Shelby Stevens fouled out on the first trip down the court; then Dorian Carter got off an awkward hook shot from the foul line that went wide left. A scrum ensued for the rebound as time expired.
“I told the team to be proud that they won, to be proud of their effort and to be proud of how they stuck together as a team tonight,” Xenia coach Terry Toliver said. “They showed some composure in overtime, and I haven’t seen that in a while here. That’s something that we’ve been lacking for at least a year now.”
Makenna Taylor led Xenia (2-3) with a game-high 14 points, Autumn Meyer finished with 13 (including three 3-pointers) and Conner managed 10 points, despite being closely guarded by the Northmont defense throughout the contest.
After the two teams shook hands, Northmont coach Virgil Carter needed some time to sit alone. He walked back to the bench and put his head in his hands.
“This really hurts. Our first two games (a road loss to Kenton Ridge and a home loss to Alter) were tough, but we came into this one feeling like we could match up pretty well with Xenia. But our intensity and attitude was excellent. We fought hard throughout the game,” Carter said. “You can’t win them all, but we are headed in the right direction.”
Carter didn’t have the exact number, but he said his Thunderbolts missed too many breakaway layups for his liking. He liked the play of Denisa Sly, who came off the bench to score a dozen points. Sly and several other players did their best to battle Conner for rebounds as well.
Sierra Sanders led Northmont (0-3) with 13 points, including a pretty 3-pointer from the left wing that tied the game at 53-all and sent things into overtime. Shaeyla Givens also got into double figures in scoring with 10 points, and Raquel Robinson finished with nine.
Northmont will play at Trotwood-Madison on Saturday. Xenia will see Trotwood-Madison next, but it won’t be until next Wednesday.
“And we’ll be shooting hundreds of free throws before then,” Toliver said.