AMANDA — Circleville limited host Amanda-Clearcreek to a season-low 26 points on Friday to claim a 38-26 Mid-State League Buckeye Division win.
The Aces missed their first 15 shots from the field and finished the evening just 11 of 47 (23.4 percent). Alyssa Evans, one of the top scorers in the Central District, averaging 18.9 points, tied her season-low with 11 points
“We came into the game with three separate defensive game plans and we stuck with the first one all the way through,” Circleville coach Steve Kalinoski revealed. “Peyton Perini did a great job of sticking on Alyssa Evans, who is a very good player, and Tori Bircher spelled Peyton a couple of different times. It took a team effort, because we had help with Kenzie McConnell (6-0) and Meghan Davis (6-1) to clog the lane and use their height.”
Circleville (18-4, 12-2) rattled off the first seven points of the game on jumpers from Tori Bircher and Shayna Hoop, along with a three-pointer from the left corner by Brie Kendrick. Evans scored the only two points of the first quarter for the Aces on a pair of free throws with 1:46 left in the period.
The Tigers extended their lead to 13-2 in the early going of the second quarter on a three-pointer by Bircher, followed by three points the old-fashioned way from Kenzie McConnell.
Riley Stoneburner banked in a 10-foot jumper with 4:50 remaining before halftime for the first Aces’ first goal of the game.
Circleville took an 18-9 lead into halftime and extended it to 26-9 with 2:13 left in the third quarter, thanks in part to five-straight points by McConnell.
After missing on 27 of their first 31 shots, the Aces scored on their final three possessions of the third quarter, with Evans scoring twice on drives and Katelynn Connell laying in two points to shave the CHS lead to 26-17.
The Aces (14-7, 10-4) scored on three of their opening four possessions of the fourth quarter, capped by a triple by Evans from the right wing, to cut the Circleville lead to 29-24 with 5:33 remaining.
Circleville answered by scoring on its next three possessions, capped by a steal and layup from Perini, to build its lead back to 11 points at 35-24.
The Aces were held to just one field goal following the aforementioned Evans three — a drive to the basket by Evans in the closing seconds after the Tigers had substituted in their reserves. During that dry spell, the Aces missed eight shots and also had two turnovers.
“Circleville’s such a good defensive team that a lot of the sets and wrinkles that we run on offense aren’t going to work,” Amanda-Clearcreek coach Cary James said. “They basically face guarded Alyssa with a lot of help and dared our other kids to beat them.”
McConnell finished the game with 13 points, five rebounds and four assists, Perini had seven points and Bircher added six points.
Circleville, which finishes second in the league with two overtime losses by a combined three points to champion Teays Valley, shot 15 of 32 (46.9 percent) from the field, but finished the game with 18 turnovers.
“We were inconsistent on offense this evening, but give credit to Amanda because they’re well-coached and it’s always a grind when we play them,” Kalinoski said. “We missed a lot of shots around the basket.”
The evening started with a highlight for the Aces as senior Courtney Young, who returned from an ACL injury in mid- January only to suffer a season-ending injury 15 seconds into the game with Bloom-Carroll, scored a basket off the ceremonial jump ball, before leaving to an ovation from the large senior night crowd.
“Courtney’s done a lot for our program and she is a great kid, so it was nice to honor her on senior night like that,” James said. “That was hard on Courtney, because she worked and worked to get back and then suffers another injury and has to miss the rest of the season. That’s probably worse than knowing you’re going to miss your senior season before it starts, because you get your hopes up about coming back.”
The Aces travel to Logan on Monday for a non-league game to conclude the regular-season. The Tigers open tournament play next Saturday afternoon at Adena against the winner of the play-in game between Chillicothe and Hillsboro.