BROOKVILLE — Matched up against Tri-Village, one of the top Division IV girls basketball teams in Ohio, Tri-County North coach Jessica Spitler asked three things of her girls: finish, not give up, and play hard.
While the final score of 76-16 indicated a mismatched blowout, Spitler said the girls did exactly that.
“I think, all in all, they put the effort in to what I asked them to do,” she said.
The Patriots entered the game on Thursday, Feb. 18 with a 19-2 record, their only losses coming against Division II Bishop Hartley and Division I Tecumseh.
On the flip side of things, North struggled this season with a 1-20 record entering the game. Their only win came against Northridge, who in turn had just one win this season against North.
“They’ve got two top three players in the conference, so our goal was to slow them down,” Spitler said. “That can open up other girls. It did slow their better players down. The other girls scored on us, but the goal was to slow the whole scoring down, to kind of bring up the ball slow.”
While the Patriots’ All-CCC First Team trio of Morgan Hunt, Meghan Downing and Rylee Sagester combined for 35, it was Delanee Gray and Torie Richards who led Tri-Village with 18 and 17 points, respectively.
Tri-Village jumped out to a 33-0 run that stretched from the beginning of the contest until there were less than four minutes remaining in the second quarter. Sophomore Riley Terry broke the scoring barrier for the Panthers, but they would eventually finish the first half down 44-4.
The Patriots continued to score in the third quarter, adding 26 points on four 3-pointers. The team would eventually finish with 12 made shots from beyond the arc.
North was able to add seven points in the fourth while limiting Tri-Village to just six points to make the final 76-16.
For the Panthers, junior Mackenzie Bacher led with five points, followed by senior Lexi Delong with four points, sophomore Riley Terry with three points, and senior Maddy Flory and freshman Nicole Lefeld each with a basket.
“We are a super young team going into this season,” Spitler said. “We haven’t had a JV team in four years. Going into the season, we knew it’s more rebuilding. We had a full JV schedule, full varsity schedule. That’s what we haven’t had in four years, so that was huge. Played a lot of underclassmen, a lot of freshmen, sophomores at the varsity level mixing with our older, experienced ones. What is our goal? To keep building. Second half of the season, we could see that. We are starting to blend as a team. Everybody’s starting to kind of come together. We competed in second half the season, so hopefully we build in the offseason.”
Flory and DeLong were the two seniors that helped to anchor North’s young squad.
“Maddy Flory, she’s a four-year varsity Letterman. She’s our go to defense girl,” Spitler said. “You tell her to run a box-and-one on pretty much any [team’s] best defender, she has slowed pretty much all of them down. That was our goal. She was able to slow Sagester down a little bit today.”
Spitler said that DeLong is the glue and role model of the team.
“She started out, we had a little bit of medical issues at the beginning of the season, got her back and got her conditioned,” she said. “She’s not your top scorer, not your top rebounder, but she’ll do whatever you ask her to do. She’ll get the rebounds we needed, she’ll score when you need to, just like finishing at the that game is what we asked her to do. So she’s kind of the glue of the team. [Will] miss both of them and definitely miss their spunk that they have at practice.”
Spitler said the Panthers will have 30 days, and then it’s back to work.
“Looking forward to the offseason,” she said. “We’ve got talent coming up from junior high and got girls in high school that I think are ready to work, so looking forward to it.”
Reach Braden Moles at 937-683-4056 or on Twitter @BradenMoles