NEW MADISON, Ohio
A banner in the Tri-Village High School gymnasium reads, “Unfinished Business.”
It has been a tough pattern for the the Patriots girls basketball team.
The Patriots won sectional and district championships in 2010, 2011 and 2012, and at that time, unfinished business meant getting over the hump and winning a regional title.
That happened in 2012, and now unfinished business means something else: getting back to Columbus for the state tournament, and then some.
The Patriots fell in last year’s state semifinal and with the majority of players returning hungry this year, they play hard to win every second of every possession of every quarter of every game.
“We would definitely like to get back there, it was an amazing experience. To be able to do it twice in your high school career would be amazing,” senior Shaye Thomas said.
” … I definitely think it’s because of the experience last year. (Coach) Brad (Gray) has, the last two games, told us that every four minutes to try to get 10 points, to try to give us little mini-games, so that’s kind of our goal.”
They surpassed that on Saturday as they improved their season record to 7-0 and are now 4-0 in the Cross County Conference after a 102-20 victory over Bethel.
The Patriots have just eight players on the varsity roster, but every one can score, proving that too on Saturday, with six in double figures and all eight with at least two field goals.
Lexie Bruner led with 26 points, senior Teha Richards added 16, Thomas 15, Ecko Brown 14, Heather Ferris 12 and Krystal Falknor 10.
Raya Mikesell also had five points, while senior Elizabeth Collins contributed four.
“Our kids are playing good and consistent basketball right now,” Gray said. “Offensively, I think we’re really clicking. Defensively, we’re still seeing a lot of things we’ve got to get better at, and we’ve got to get better quick in those areas, or we’re going to get exposed.
“We’ve got some tough games coming up here and those teams are capable of exposing our defensive weaknesses, but offensively, if we can continue to score the ball the way we’re scoring it, we’ve got kids that just are really feeling good shooting the ball from 20 feet. Good things, I think, can happen for this team.”
The defense looked pretty good, too.
The Patriots jumped to a 12-0 lead and led 12-2 after the first quarter, 53-6 at halftime, and 77-12 after three quarters, while forcing 32 turnovers and limiting theirs to 10.
Bruner also made five 3-pointers, while Thomas had three.
“Our major strength right now has just been our defensive pressure, just being able to create a lot of offense with our defense,” Gray said. “I think early on in the year we weren’t shooting it well from the perimeter. We struggled a little bit in our half-court offense, so we relied on our defense to create a lot of offense for us. Lately we’ve been kind of finding our rhythm here in the half-court offense, as well, but we still kind of hang our hat in our defense.
“We’ve always taken a lot of pride in our defense. Our defensive scoring average is something that we really pay a lot of attention to, and right now, we’re only giving up, it’s under 30 points a game now, and that’s something that’s pretty important to us.”
The Patriot offense has averaged 77 points a game, and the defense has allowed 28.6.
Richards leads the Patriot scorers with 18.2 a game, but not far back are Thomas with 14.2 a game, Falknor with 11.1 and Bruner with 11.
“As a team, we all know how to score, and it’s nice that, no matter what, whoever you give it to, they’re going to find a way to score,” Richards said.
” … We’re going to have some big competition coming up and we’re always gaining confidence, so it’ll be big for us in the big games.”
The Patriots’ next two CCC games are against teams with flawless conference records too: Covington on Thursday and reigning champion Miami East on Dec. 27.
The program even earned Bethel head coach Ed Quincel’s respect.
“Brad’s got his kids playing well and I’m sure they’ve got the goal of getting back to where they were last year,” Quincel said. ” … It’s just kids that are very hungry. They run the court well, they understand the game well and every kid wants to score. They played hard, and they’re what I would like our girls to want to get to. To play that hard, regardless of the score, every second you’re on the court playing that hard, and Tri-Village does that.”