By John Bombatch
XENIA — On Senior Night in the Xenia Christian High School gymnasium, all the host Ambassadors needed was a scoring run — one really long first-half scoring run — to distance itself from Middletown Christian for a 66-54 Metro Buckeye Conference win, Thursday night.
Ari Nelson tossed in a jump shot from the right side with 3:21 to go in the first quarter, and with that the game was all tied up at 12 apiece. From that mark, until there was about three minutes left in the first half, Xenia Christian went on a combined 22-4 scoring run to more than double up the visiting Eagles, 34-16.
“I thought we were able to use our speed to our advantage, we kinda kept the floor spread and made sure that our kids got the looks that we wanted,” Ambassadors coach Mark Combs said. “We knew we were going to have troubles with them on the defensive end, because Middletown Christian has some pretty physical kids.
“So that run that we had was a significant dividing point, but I also think that us being able to keep the floor spread was a key for us as well.”
The sizable lead enabled the Ambassadors to spread the floor and eat up the game clock with each possession. And Middletown Christian coach Brent Tolson said it took his Eagles out of their gameplan as well.
“Once they got that lead of 12-15 points, then they could spread the court out,” Tolson said. “You can’t play zone (defense) against that. You’ve gotta play man-to-man, and we don’t match up real well against that, because they’ve got so much speed. … They’d spread the court and we’d try to help each other on defense, but we couldn’t leave (Katie) Riddle or (Rachel) Sweeney uncovered, so we’d sometimes leave the lane open and just hope we could get the rebound.”
Prior to the game, Riddle and fellow Xenia Christian seniors Morgan Adams and Grace Dean were recognized by the XC fans. Riddle was also presented with a souvenir basketball in recognition of her scoring her 1,000th career point earlier this season.
Riddle finished with 15 points, Adams scored seven and Dean tossed in nine. Sweeney led the Ambassadors with 18 points scored, Ann Kensinger scored seven and Nelson finished with six.
Long-range senior sharpshooter Makenzie Tolson scored a game-high 23 points (with four 3-pointers) for Middletown Christian (10-5, 2-5 MBC). She was joined in double-figure scoring by Aubriana Bellard who scored 13.
A “special” group of basketball cheerleaders (the Xenia Christian boys basketball team) helped set the mood for the night’s contest. They even provided the halftime entertainment by performing a highly synchronized rendition of The Chicken Dance.
“It’s great when you’ve got support. Having the guys program come over and support our girls. I really love the community here at XC, and how we support each other. We go to a lot of their games, too. But I tell ya, they’re better cheerleaders than we are!” Combs said with a laugh.Xenia Christian (15-4, 6-3 MBC) will play a make-up game on Saturday at Carlisle. They’ll then return the XC gym to play their final MBC conference contest of the regular season at 7:30 p.m. Monday, Feb. 1 against MBC regular season champion Miami Valley.