PITSBURG — At the beginning of the season Preble Shawnee girls’ basketball coach Kevin Schaeffer was just hoping his team would improve on last year’s record.
But after a 2-7 start the outlook didn’t look promising for a team with a roster full of talented sophomores, two juniors and just one senior.
The Arrows, though, regrouped and exceeded Schaeffer’s expectations.
The team won 12 of its last 16 games and reached the Division III sectional final, where they fell to No. 3 seed Arcanum, 53-42, on Saturday, Feb. 25, at Franklin-Monroe High School.
The Arrows finished the season 14-11.
“They did everything that they were supposed to. They worked hard. Starting off two and seven, winning 12 of our last 16 games, getting to a sectional final game and actually be in the game, they’ve done everything, especially down the stretch,” Schaeffer said.
Schaeffer, who has been coaching various sports over the past 20 years, had high praise for this year’s group, which was seeking to win the program’s first sectional title since 1989.
“But, we’re young and I told them, in 20 years (of coaching) I’ve not been more proud of a group of kids. They’ve put up with a lot and they worked hard through all that. Despite starting the season off the way we did. You can’t ask for more than that out of group. It’s just a good group of kids. I’m excited to see the next couple of years. We should be better every year,” he said. “If I were honest, I wouldn’t have guessed we would be 14-11 and in the sectional finals. I was shooting for just better than last year. Last year, we were 11-12 and lost the first tournament game.”
Arcanum’s Stevie Johnting scored the game’s first four points, but the Arrows responded with a 3-pointer from sophomore Brenna Woodard and a layup from sophomore Jenna Lovely for 5-4 lead with 2:36 to play in the first quarter.
The Trojans answered with the final seven points of the quarter for an 11-5 lead.
Shawnee outscored Arcanum 14-10 in the second to cut the deficit to 21-19. The Arrows tied the game at 19-19 with 19 seconds left in the half, but the Trojans scored with four seconds left to take for good.
Johnting opened the third quarter with a 3-pointer to extend her teams lead to 24-19. After a Kaylie Campbell basket brought Shawnee back to within three at 24-21, the Trojans closed the quarter on a 12-5 run to take a 36-26 after three quarters.
Shawnee closed the gap to a 38-32 with a 6:30 left, but never got closer than six the rest of the game. Arcanum pushed the lead to 44-33 with just over two minutes left. A 3-pointer from Shawnee’s Nicole Sims with 43 seconds left made 49-42.
Sims led the Arrows with 14 points, including making four 3s.
Brenna Woodard added seven, while Lovely and Abby Bulach each had five.
“There were two little spells there where we didn’t really do what we supposed to,” Schaeffer said. “They’re a good basketball team. It’s not like we lost to a schlep or whatever. We were right in it with them.”
Depsite the loss, Schaeffer said he has no regrets about how the season finished.
“I’ll take this season. I’ve got no regrets about it. This is a bonus. We got here and we were the seventh seed and we got to the sectional final. We’ll take it,” he said. “It’s not exactly what we wanted but it’s about as good as it can be with a loss.”
Riane Woodard is the lone senior on the roster and Schaeffer said her leadership will be missed.
“We’ll miss Riane. She’s our only senior. She was a good leader for us down the stretch. We’ll miss her,” he said.
To reach the sectional final, Shawnee defeated Anna 39-32 on Thursday, Feb. 23.
Schaeffer said he was thankful for the support the team received from the parents and community.
“The support we got — as small as the numbers were, it was all positive,” he said. “I saw people in the stands that I hadn’t seen at any game this year.”