By John Bombatch
XENIA — Xenia’s home contest with Springfield Shawnee will go down as a loss in the record books, but it didn’t look like that after the game. Xenia Athletic Director Mark Stoll was congratulating first-year coach Kyle Gary and his staff on how hard his Buccaneer girls basketball squad had played, and several fans were also offering their congrats, despite the 45-34 loss in Xenia’s Blue Pit.
That’s because they saw a Xenia bunch who, despite trailing by eight points at halftime, battled back and held the Braves without a field goal for all but the final three seconds of the third quarter. Xenia pulled to within 28-27 on a Charlie Stone free throw, but Shawnee’s Desinique Parks drained a 3-pointer from the right wing to put the Braves up 31-27 with one quarter left to play. It was Parks’ only score of the night.
Shawnee reeled off a 7-3 mini run through the first four minutes of the final quarter, and Xenia couldn’t get any closer.
“I’m going to take our slow start as jitters for our kids,” Gary said. “I think once we relaxed and figured out we were okay, we played very well. We continue to compete, we continue to play hard. That’s all I want from them. If they keep playing hard, good things will happen.”
Cora Stevens led Xenia (0-1) with a 13-point scoring night. Twelve of those points came before she hobbled off the court with 2:48 left in the first half with what appeared to be a pain in her stomach. She played for most of the second half. Jada Wallace was next for the Buccaneers with eight points.
Shawnee coach Blake Garberich said it was the first time his Braves had won their season opening game in his three years as coach.
“I’m always happy with a win. Xenia beat us by three points at our place last season in our opener, so for us to come back here and take care of business, it was a good thing,” Garberich said.
Alisa Williams led Shawnee (1-0) with 14 points. The Braves don’t return to the hardwood until next Saturday when they’ll host New Carlisle Tecumseh.
While Gary was still in the hallway outside of the Xenia locker room, Stevens came out still visibly upset that the team had lost. Gary leaned over to offer his hard working junior guard some encouragement.
“You played hard tonight. Great job, Cora! … But I’m gonna coach you for all 32 minutes, all right?” Gary told her.
“Thanks coach,” Stevens said.
Xenia is back in action today at 1 p.m. (junior varsity plays at 11:30 a.m.) against Greeneview. It’s the first game of the season for the Rams.