By John Bombatch
BROOKVILLE — For the first time since the beginning of the 2015-‘16 girls high school basketball season, the Xenia Christian Ambassadors failed to convert a 3-point shot.
Fourth-seeded Xenia Christian was just off its shooting game on Saturday, and it cost them. Fifth seed South Charleston Southeastern sought to pressure the Ambassadors from the three-point line and the defensive move paid off.
Southeastern (16-8) jumped out to an early 15-5 lead, fought off an Ambassadors rally, and eventually claimed a 50-34 win in the opening round of the Division IV sectional basketball tournament, held at Brookville High School.
Southeastern coach P.J. Bertemes said he grudgingly chose to play Xenia Christian in the tournament, because they were the lesser of four evils (top-seed Tri-Village, second-seeded Miami Valley and third-seeded Covington being his other choices).
“I had seen Xenia Christian play a number of times, and I was not excited about playing them. They’re tremendously skilled. They have girls 7-8 deep that pass, shoot, dribble, and they’re really well coached. We had to decide what we were going to do tonight, and our plan was to come out and guard the 3-line,” Southeastern coach P.J. Bertemes said.
Unofficially, Xenia Christian went 0-for-10 from behind the 3-point line.
Senior Katie Riddle was the only Ambassadors player to get into double figures in scoring. She finished with 12 points. Fellow seniors Grace Dean (four points) and Morgan Adams (two) also played their final games. Emily Riddle and Rachel Sweeney each finished with six points, and Arianna Nelson finished with four.
“When we shoot the ball pretty well, we’re effective. But tonight we didn’t shoot it well, and that plays a part of it,” Xenia Christian coach Mark Combs said. “However, I will say that P.J. does a great job of teaching defense. His kids defend like crazy, and they made us make tough shots, and tonight we didn’t make ‘em.
“He guarded me when he was at Wittenberg, and he was a great defender then, too!”
While Xenia Christian (18-6) couldn’t score, Southeastern’s Maddy McKee was throwing daggers from 3-point range (14 points, including four threes), while Trojans teammates Libby Hudson (13), Leslie Flores (10) and Katie Erickson (six) were scoring and snaring rebounds from inside.
Xenia Christian trailed 27-12 at the break, and gave up the first points to Southeastern to start the second half. But an 11-1 run in the first four minutes of the third quarter pulled the Ambassadors to within seven points of the Trojans, 30-23. But Southeastern closed out the quarter with a 6-2 mini run and Xenia Christian never threatened again.
According to the Metro Buckeye Conference website, the last time Xenia Christian failed to make a 3-point shot was the first game of this season, a 37-23 road win over Sidney Lehman Catholic on Nov. 20, 2015.
“We started slow, we missed some shots, and I think the physicality and the pace of the game might’ve been something we weren’t completely ready for, but I couldn’t be more proud of my kids,” Combs said.
Southeastern now has a second-round matchup with third-seeded Covington (a 54-30 winner over Bradford) next, at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at Brookville High.
John Bombatch can be reached at (937) 372-4444, Ext. 2123.