PDT Sports Writer
JACKSON — There were two paces to Saturday’s Division IV Southeast District Semifinal at Jackson between No. 5 South Webster and No. 1 Notre Dame: Sunday drive and NASCAR speed.
Neither team seemed to do well with the first, but only the Jeeps felt comfortable with the break-neck pace. South Webster forced 30 Titan turnovers — 19 off steals — and won the rebounding battle 41-38 (14-5 offensively) in a 52-35 victory.
The Jeeps advance to the March 3 district final at Ohio University’s Convocation Center against No. 2 Waterford, which defeated No. 2 Clay 49-35 in the day’s second semifinal. South Webster coach Kristie Johnson is glad her team is making their first trip into the district finals since 2010.
“We knew going in that they had not seen our defensive pressure or teams like our defensive pressure,” Johnson said. “…We were hoping that we could match up with them, go 100 (full-court defense).”
The Jeeps started the game in a box-and-one with the rover on Notre Dame senior Jen Arnzen. The first points of the contest didn’t come until Titan senior Raigan Sammons split a pair of free throws.
Around that time, Johnson took perhaps the biggest gamble of the game by switching to straight-up man-to-man. The opening quarter ended with a Hayley Giles jumper to make it an 8-7 game in favor of South Webster.
The second period was when the Jeeps started turning up the pressure. They forced Notre Dame into nine miscues as seven were from thefts.
Entering the lockerroom down 17-9, Titans coach J.D. McKenzie knew the tempo of the game was not suited towards his ball club.
“The one thing we worried about was their pressure,” McKenzie said. “We thought that if we could break their pressure and get into the half-court set, we’d be fine. At times when we did, we were fine and at times when we didn’t handle the pressure well, it showed.”
After extending its lead to 36-21 after three stanzas, South Webster attacked the Notre Dame ball handlers again as the Jeeps picked the Titans pockets nine times in the quarter to put the game away. Haley Stanley’s field goal shortly after McKenzie called his final timeout gave South Webster its biggest lead of the contest at 44-21.
“Their overall team speed was more than we could match for the whole game,” McKenzie said. “In segments, we could but just not for the whole game.”
Giles led all scorers with 11 points on the afternoon while Stanley, Courtney Blanton and Kacie Hall each added 10. In her final high school game, Arnzen tied for the team lead in scoring with eight along with Brooke Pierron. Entering the fourth, Arnzen was only credited with four points and didn’t break her drought until 5:40 left as she grabbed 14 rebounds.
Johnson felt Giles and Haley Potters handled their defensive responsibilities well throughout the contest.
“(They) both knew what they had to do against Arnzen, whether we were in man, whether we were in box, whether we were in whatever,” Johnson said. “They did a really nice job on her.”
Along with Arnzen, McKenzie loses a senior class that includes Sammons, Stacie Ramey, Libby Welsh and Sammie Marting. In the three years under McKenzie, Notre Dame has won 54 games, three Division IV Southeast District appearances and two SOC I championships.
“They’re a great class and great kids,” McKenzie said. “…Their accomplishments speak for themselves. Each one of them individually are going to be missed dearly, dearly, dearly.
“It’s the worst part of the job and I hate it. I cried in there with them, I love them all to death and I think a lot of them will come back in the future and be a part of the program. They are one of the main reasons we are where we are right now.”
Cody Leist can be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 294, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
South Webster 8 9 19 16 — 52
Notre Dame 7 2 12 14 — 35
South Webster — Blanton 3-3-10, Shonkwiler 1-0-2, Messer 2-0-5, Hall 4-1-10, Stanley 5-0-10, Potters 2-0-4, Giles 4-3-11, Totals 21-7-52.
Notre Dame — Stevenson 1-0-2, Welsh 1-0-2, Phillips 2-0-4, Pierron 4-0-8, Marting 3-1-7, Arnzen 3-2-8, Sammons 1-1-4, Totals 15-4-35.
3-Point Goals — South Webster 3 (Blanton, Messer, Hall); Notre Dame 1 (Sammons).
Records — South Webster 12-10; Notre Dame 22-2.