BROOKVILLE, Ohio – The third time was the charm for Miami Valley School.
The Ohio Division IV girls basketball Rams had met state-ranked Tri-Village twice in the postseason in recent years, at the district final level.
Both times Tri-Village prevailed.
Not on this Saturday.
Unranked Miami Valley overcame a slow start Saturday afternoon, scoring 52 points in the last three quarters to come back and defeat third-ranked Tri-Village 60-55 in a sectional final at Brookville High School.
Miami Valley advances to play next Saturday at Tippecanoe High School in the Division IV district finals.
There are always many reasons why a close game between two good teams turns to one or the other.
In this one, free throw shooting was one key reason.
The Patriots, who were Cross County Conference champions again this season, could manage to hit just 11 of 21 charity tosses in the game, just eight of 18 in the last three quarters. Miami Valley nailed 16 of 20 free throws, a margin of five for the Metro Buckeye Conference champions.
A five-point difference in a five-point margin of victory.
A very disappointed Brad Gray, head coach of Tri-Village, pointed to another key reason for an earlier-than-expected end to the Lady Patriot season.
“Their pressure got to us, we made too many turnovers, which is uncharacteristic of this team,” Gray said after a long locker room visit with his squad. “Some shots didn’t fall that we normally make, but I don’t think that was the real reason we lost. I think we had trouble getting by the first level of their (Miami Valley) defense.”
In the first half, Miami Valley had 12 turnovers, unofficially, as compared to just four for T-V. In the second half, the Patriots had nine to just six for the winning Rams.
The game had started well for Tri-Village, which also fell in last year’s sectional final, but to CCC rival Covington. The Patriots led 17-8 after the first quarter, but the Rams outscored the Patriots in each of the last three quarter, pulling to within 30-28 at intermission, then leading 40-37 after three quarters.
Tri-Village hit six treys in the game, but Miami Valley nailed eight, with three players having more than one. Miami Valley players Tia and Elea Karras hit 17 and 15 points, respectively, for the Rams, but Alyssa Clements and Sarah Campbell came up large in the second half to key the win. Clements had 11 of her 13 points in the second half, Campbell recorded seven in the fourth quarter alone and finished with 10.
Tri-Village was led by senior standout Ecko Brown with 17 points, while sophomores Danika Mann and Allie Downing had 12 and 11 points, respectively.
“Brad (Gray) has a great program, we knew they were tough,” said Miami Valley head coach Randy Duff. “So we had to be tough too, and we were.”
Miami Valley out-rebounded Tri-Village, unofficially, 16-15 in the second half, and the two squads tied at 23 all for the game. The Patriots hit four treys in the fourth quarter, but hit no 3-point field goals in either the second or third quarters as Miami Valley first caught up, then nudged ahead.
The Rams hit 11 of 14 free throws in the final quarter, as three players combined for hitting 10 straight charity tosses, taking advantage when Tri-Village was behind and forced to foul to try to come back.
Late, there was one final chance for the Patriots to force overtime.
The Patriots had hit a trey to close the deficit to 58-55, then forced a turnover to get the ball back with 10.8 seconds left and down by three.
But they could not launch a final trey, turning it over with less than a second left on the clock.
Two Miami Valley free throws converted set the final margin.
Both teams now have 23-2 overall records, but T-V’s season is now, while Miami Valley moves on to face either Felicity-Franklin or Middletown Christian on March 7.
MIAMI VALLEY (23-2)- T. Karras 5 4-4 17, E. Karras 5 3-3 15, Brinegar 1 0-0 2, Campbell 2 4-5 10, Ginsburg 0 0-0 0, Clements 4 4-4 13, Middleton 1 1-4 3, Agbowu 0 0-0 0. TOTALS- 18 16-20 60.
TRI-VILLAGE (23-2)- Miller 3 1-3 8, Brown 5 6-10 17, Mikesell 2 0-1 5, Downing 4 0-1 11, Mann 5 2-4 12, Dubbs 0 0-0 0, Godown 0 0-0 0, Dowler 0 2-2 2. TOTALS- 19 11-21 55.