PDT Sports Writer
MCDERMOTT — Rebounding and turnovers are always a part of any coach’s game plan entering a basketball game.
Make sure the first one is up and the second one is down and chances of winning are increased. No. 3 Clay used that philosophy well enough in the first half of Saturday’s Division IV Southeast Sectional Championship that a late surge from No. 6 East wouldn’t be as harmful at the end.
When the dust settled, the Panthers advanced with a 48-37 win and will play No. 2 Waterford in a Division IV Southeast District Semifinal at Jackson. The Wildcats advanced with a 51-24 win over No. 7 Symmes Valley later that afternoon.
“We wanted to come out in man and we thought because (Mercedes) Tackett and (Tiffany) Craft, if they get the ball around the basket, they score a lot,” Clay coach Kevin Castle said. “So we thought if we can stay in man, put some pressure on the ball and not let them get a lot of looks to them because when they get it, they generally score.”
The Panthers forced the Tartans into 12 of their 29 turnovers for the game in the first quarter. Unfortnately, Clay could not capitalize on the miscues until late with a 10-0 run to close out a 14-4 first quarter. What helped the most for the Panthers was a 4-for-11 shooting output in that final stretch to nullify a 2-for-14 start.
While Clay was missing a plethora of shots, it gave Katie Redding a chance to clean up the messes. The junior finished with 11 rebounds on the day, 10 of them coming in the first half and four of the six in the first quarter coming as offensive rebounds.
Redding carried an even bigger load when Madison Whitley was collared with two first half fouls. It also forced Castle to switch to more zone defenses.
A more efficient second quarter from the Panthers boosted their lead to 27-11 heading into the break. That’s when East coach Jack Branon decided to turn up the pressure.
“The second half out there, for whatever reason we just got it in gear,” Branon said. “Maybe we should have pressed earlier, I don’t know. That’s what I’m always going to think about with this game, maybe wished we would’ve got out and got after it harder a little bit earlier.”
The switch worked as the Tartans forced the Panthers into 13 second half turnovers and trimmed the lead to nine on two occasions late before Clay burnt the final seconds off the clock. The second half was something Castle was glad to be finished with.
“I thought we were rushing a lot of shots and taking some quick shots (with) nobody around the basket,” Castle said. “When you take quick shots and you make them, it’s not bad. But when you’re missing them, they were scoring.”
Redding led all scorers with 15 points to go along with her 11 rebounds in the win. In her final game, Tackett paced East with 13 points.
Along with Tackett, who had to sit out part of the season with transfer restrictions, Branon will lose Craft, Jessie Monroe, Brookelyn Newell and Jessica Meade to graduation.
“You hear coaches say (they’re) glad it’s over, I’m never glad it’s over,” Branon said. “You always have a special group of kids, kids that are wanting to make the sacrifices to play high school basketball. Most of the time, they’re pretty special kids and these nine girls we had, we just had nine, but they were a special group.”
Cody Leist can be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 294, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
East 4 7 12 14 — 37
Clay 14 13 14 7 — 48
East — Craft 3-2-8, Monroe 2-2-8, Lindamood 1-0-2, Meadows 1-0-2, Newell 1-0-2, Tackett 5-3-13, Meade 1-0-2, Totals 14-7-37.
Clay — C. Whitley 1-4-6, Castle 1-0-3, Gilliland 4-0-8, Curley 2-0-6, Delotell 2-0-4, M. Whitley 2-2-6, Redding 5-5-15, Totals 17-11-48.
3-Point Goals — East 2 (Monroe 2); Clay 3 (Curley 2, Castle).
Records — East 9-14; Clay 15-7.