TROY — Everybody in the Troy High School gymnasium knew that Xenia’s girls team had the odds stacked against them. Going up against a talented senior-laden Springboro team is a challenge for anybody.
Everybody was right.
The second-seeded Panthers (21-9) won handily, 61-14, on Feb. 21 to advance to the Division I sectional finals while ending Xenia’s season with a 3-20 record.
Springboro charged out to a 9-0 lead in the game’s first five minutes.
With eight seniors on its roster, Springboro’s level of play never appeared to wane. With constant pressure on Xenia’s shots, and their consistent ability to swoop in with their taller inside post players for rebounds, the Panthers never seemed to let up against the over-matched Buccaneers.
“I thought we did alright in the first half, until about the last minute and a half. Then we got tired, and Springboro went out and scored about eight layups in a row against us,” Xenia coach Jamie Hand said. “Up until then, I thought we played as well as we could. We weren’t scoring a lot of points, but we were still running our offense, and we did a decent job on defense.
“Then in the second half, Springboro just killed us on rebounds.”
Very unofficially, Springboro outrebounded Xenia 31-10 for the game.
Trinity Morton-Nooks entered Wednesday’s sectional semifinal averaging a team-best 13.6 points per game, and Springboro seemed to know it. Morton-Nooks rarely got a clean look at the basket, and was limited to three points, all from the free throw line. Kamea Baker led the Bucs with six points scored, the team’s lone senior — Adri Winston — scored three points and Alexis Claybaugh finished with two.
A running clock was implemented with five minutes yet to play in the third quarter, as the Panthers had rolled out to a 45-9 lead. Springboro outscored Xenia 23-0 in the third quarter.
Jordan Diehl was the Panthers top scorer with 16 points, Lauren Thomas finished with nine points, while 10 other Springboro teammates accounted for the other 36 points.
“It was a good game for us. We got some people some playing time and, like I just told them, ‘Things are going to be ratcheted up a bit from here on out,’” Springboro Coach Tom Benjamin said. “I congratulated the team on winning 20 games (in a season) for the fifth year in a row. That’s big. We’re in a good place. Now hopefully we’ll give it our best shot on Monday night.”
Springboro advances to play either fourth seeded Wayne or No. 10 seed Springboro in the sectional final. That contest is set for Monday, Feb. 26 at Troy High. The Panthers beat both teams handily during the regular season.
Hand said he appreciated Winston’s play in her senior year for the team.
“I just have a whole lot of respect for her, and I love her,” Hand said. “She started playing for us just last season, so she knew this season would be a tough one, but she wanted to play. She came to all the practices, played hard every time. She’s just a special person and we’re really going to miss her.”
Contact John Bombatch at 937-372-4444, Ext. 2123.