FRANKFORT — With its second leading scorer out with an injury, Circleville turned to its post combination of sophomore Kenzie McConnell and junior Meghan Davis for 31 points on Saturday to claim a 45-28 win over Chillicothe in a Division II Southeast District sectional final inside Adena High School.
McConnell finished the afternoon with a double-double of 21 points and 11 rebounds, to go with four blocks and three assists. Davis, who missed the first half of the season with an injury, turned in her best game since returning to the fold with 10 points and nine rebounds.
“We wanted to attack the basket and finish since we had a height advantage over Chillicothe,” McConnell said. “Meghan and I played on the same AAU team last summer, and we developed a lot of chemistry with looking for and trusting each other.”
Brie Kendrick added eight points, five rebounds and four assists, and Tori Bircher scored the other six points for the Tigers.
Top-seeded Circleville (19-4) advances to a district semifinal on Wednesday against Mid-State League Buckeye Division rival Fairfield Union (13-10), which was a 38-30 winner over Warren in its sectional final. Tip-off is scheduled for 6:15 p.m. inside Southeastern High School. The Tigers prevailed in both regular-season meetings.
Circleville cruised to a 48-26 win over Chillicothe to open the season, but the rematch concerned coach Steve Kalinoski due to the second half the Cavaliers put together. After starting the season 0-7, Chillicothe won 10 of its last 16 games with a healthy lineup. Circleville was also missing the services of senior guard Shayna Hoop, who averages 10.6 points and 6.5 rebounds, due to an injury she suffered last week against Amanda-Clearcreek.
The Cavaliers (10-14) took their lone lead of the game at 3-2, following a three-pointer by Meliah Johnson with 6:30 remaining in the opening quarter. Circleville held Chillicothe scoreless for the next seven minutes and 30 seconds on 10 missed shots and three turnovers.
“We focused on covering Julia Hall and Shawnice Smith and made sure they didn’t get open shots,” McConnell said. “If any of their other players tried to get to the basket, we had Meghan and me back there to bottle them up.”
Kalinoski noted getting stops helped the Tigers dictate a half-court pace to the sectional final.
“Chillicothe does a nice job with pressuring out of its 1-3-1 trap, so limiting them to one shot and getting the rebound kept them from setting that up very much,” he said.
Circleville finished the quarter on an 11-0 run, with four different players scoring, to take a 13-3 lead. McConnell had four points, four rebounds and a block in the opening stanza and Davis also scored four points.
“It was nice to get off to a good start and get some momentum, because Chillicothe is a completely different team than when we faced them to open the season,” Kalinoski said. “We were patient on offense and did a nice job of getting the basketball to Kenzie and Meghan.”
The Tigers stretched their lead to 25-8 with three minutes remaining in the first half, thanks in part to McConnell and Davis scoring four points apiece.
Circleville went scoreless for the remainder of the half, as Chillicothe ran off six straight points to cut its deficit to 25-14 at halftime.
“We started out in man and went to a zone there where we didn’t move as well as we needed to on a few possessions and Chillicothe knocked down a couple of shots,” Kalinoski said. “We mixed in a little zone, but I felt our man was pretty strong this afternoon with blanketing their shooters.”
The Cavaliers cut their deficit to as few as nine points on a layup from Shawnice Smith early in the third quarter, but the Tigers still held a comfortable 38-28 lead entering the final period of play.
Circleville preceded to shut out Chillicothe in the fourth quarter on 0 of 6 shooting with four turnovers to nail down a trip to the district tournament.
Chillicothe finished the game 10 of 38 (26.3 percent) from the field, including 4 of 16 (25 percent) from three-point range, while Circleville was 20 of 42 (47.6 percent) shooting.
Circleville held a 27-17 rebounding advantage and committed 11 turnovers, compared to 12 for Chillicothe.
Hall and Smith finished the game with nine points apiece for the Cavaliers, and Johnson added seven.