By Cody Leist
LUCASVILLE — In a scouting tape from earlier this season, Northwest coach Jeff Queen did not feel Chillicothe Huntington could shoot from the perimeter.
However, the fifth-seeded Huntsmen proved otherwise in Saturday’s 47-34 Division III Southeast Sectional Final at Valley High School. Despite the No. 4 Mohawks having a 38-37 on the glass and 18-6 offensively, they could not combat a 10-of-23 performance from 3-point range by Huntington.
“We put all of our emphasis on stopping (Ariel) Sams and other girls stepped up and hit big shots for them,” Queen said. “You can’t guard them all when you’re trying to pay attention to her.”
The person who really stepped up was Dylana Gragg, who had a game-high 18 on 7-of-12 shooting from the field and 4-of-5 from 3-point land.
Both teams struggled to get anything going offensively in the opening quarter. However, Northwest’s 4-of-14 performance from the field led to an 8-4 advantage entering the second.
That’s when the Huntsmen, who missed all five shots from 3-point range in the first quarter, started to feel the touch from downtown.
“You watch them play, you scout them, you think that you’ve got a pretty good gameplan coming into the game,” Queen said. “I thought Haleigh Vastine did a good job on the Sams girls, other girls stepped up and hit shots. That’s what it’s all about and that’s what they done, that’s what they needed to do to win.”
While Huntington only attempted one shot from inside the arc, the Huntsmen were 5-of-8 from outside, including three-straight at one point. With his team down 20-17 at the half, Queen started to notice his team’s toughness inside with offensive rebounds and second-chance attempts.
But when many of the putbacks failed to fall, Huntington made the Mohawks pay again with 3-pointers on three-consecutive attempts to make it a 29-21 affair with 5:22 left in the third. Paige Simon and Vastine ripped off back-to-back baskets to cut the deficit to 29-25 but that was the closest Northwest could get in the rest of the game.
“You’ve got to put the ball in the basket whenever you get those offensive rebounds,” Queen said, “you’ve got to put them back in and score. We did that at times, we made two or three of them but then we missed two or three of them, you’ve got to convert them all, especially in a game like this when you’re down by 10 and you’re trying to make a run.”
Northwest’s self-inflicted wounds also came at the free throw line as the Mohawks were 9-of-20 from the charity stripe.
“You’ve got to convert those, especially when you’re trying to make a run and trying to get back into the game,” Queen said.
Ashley Riley led the Mohawks with 10 points. Simon is the only senior that Queen will lose will be Simon, whom he described as “a parents’ dream” with her work on and off the floor.
Cody Leist can be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 294, or on Twitter @CodyLeist.
Chillicothe Huntington 4 16 17 10 — 47
Northwest 8 9 11 6 — 34
Huntington — Gragg 7-0-18, Cox 2-0-4, Snyder 1-0-3, Magill 1-0-3, Irvin 2-0-6, Sams 2-0-6, LeMaster 3-1-7, Totals 18-1-47.
Northwest —Vastine 1-0-2, Osburn 2-0-4, Simon 2-2-6, D. Jenkins 2-2-7, R. Jenkins 2-1-5, Riley 3-4-10, Totals 12-9-34.
3-Point Goals — Huntington 10 (Gragg 4, Irvin 2, Sams 2, Snyder, Magill); Northwest 1 (D. Jenkins).
Records — Huntington 8-15; Northwest 9-12.