SIDNEY — The art of making the extra pass somethinis g Legacy Christian coach Mark Combs had been emphasizing to his girls basketball team throughout the season, and that extra work paid big dividends in an exciting Division IV district semifinal buzzer-beating win over Russia, Feb. 27 at Sidney High School.
Kathleen Ahner wasn’t supposed to get the ball on the Knights’ final drive, but Combs’ daughter, Maddy, found her sophomore teammate momentarily open at the top of the 3-point arch. Ahner put up the shot and scored as the final two seconds ran off the clock, to give Legacy Christian a 41-38 win.
“It was actually a set play for Emily (Hess), but they came up and started doubling her, so I got open and Maddy found me,” Ahner said. “This was a team effort. … We didn’t want to go home. We knew it was going to be a physical game, but we all played hard and we did what we could to help each other get the job done.”
Ahner scored a game-high 19 points, including a pair of 3-pointers in the fourth quarter. Hess finished with nine, with seven of her points coming in the second half.
Asked whether Ahner’s score was drawn up like that, coach Combs laughed and said “Uh, yeah. Let’s go with that!
“I will say this: All year long, we’ve made the extra pass. And that was a situation where the pass was made, they over rotated their coverage against the person they were doubling, and the extra pass got us the shot. So it was fairly fitting, because that’s what they have done all year long,” he said.
Adding poetic justice to the score, Wednesday night was Ahner’s and Emily Riddle’s birthdays. As the team gathered in the gym lobby prior to the bus ride back to Xenia, fans and teammates sang ‘Happy Birthday’ to the pair.
“This game of basketball is gift enough,” Ahner said, still smiling.
Combs said he hopes his Knights players will gain some confidence after beating a quality opponent.
“The state doesn’t need me to say that girls basketball up here is pretty good. Russia has their reputation as a good basketball team for a reason, so any time you come this far to play a tournament game, you know that you’re in an area where they play great tournament basketball.
“So this just reinforces what we’ve been telling the kids all season long, and that is: You guys can play. We’ve just gotta go out and execute. We’ve gotta try to match the other team’s physicality, but this is really an affirmation of what we’ve been telling the kids all year. They really can play.”
A despondent Russia coach Andy Timmerman said his Raiders were trying to get the ball out of Ahner’s hands.
“We were trying to speed up their game and to get them to maybe get off a hurried shot, to disrupt them a bit,” he said. “But obviously, they were able to get the ball to the right person and we didn’t prevent that. And they were able to close out to her.”
Sophomore Ashley Scott led the Raiders with 12 points scored, and senior forward Laurissa Poling finished with eight. Poling, Jenna Cordonnier, Shea Borchers and Katie Heuing were seniors on the Russia team, and Timmerman said they will definitely be missed.
Legacy Christian advances to the district title game on Saturday, March 2 against Pitsburg Franklin Monroe, a 42-34 upset winner Wednesday night over Covington in the Brookville 1 sectional final. That game is scheduled to take place at 1 p.m. Saturday, March 2 at Troy High School.
Contact John Bombatch at 937-372-4444, Ext. 2123.