GAHANNA – The Big Walnut girls basketball team found itself down 13-0 to start and behind by as many as 17 late in the third quarter.
Still, the Golden Eagles had two chances to tie it in the final seconds, but came up short and fell 44-42 to Bloom-Carroll in a Division II district semifinal Tuesday night at Gahanna Lincoln High School.
“Everybody’s disappointed in how the season ended because everybody wanted something more for this year,” BW coach Jason Crawford said. “Something that I let those kids know to be proud about was a lot of (teams) down 17 in the middle of the third would have packed up the tent and just gone home. They chose the opposite route and battled, fought and scrapped their way back and made it a one-possession game.”
BW used pressure defense to force 12 steals and 22 turnovers to help dig out of the hole.
Senior Erin Boehm knocked down back-to-back 3-pointers in the final minute of the game to pull the Eagles (18-6) within one.
“Definitely, late in the game – she started to take it upon herself to put us on her back a little bit,” Crawford said. “She did an excellent job of coming off some ball-screens … get a little bit of space and knock down some shots for us.”
She led all scorers with 18 points, including eight in the fourth quarter and added four rebounds and three steals. Avery Schone added 13 points, four rebounds and four steals to lead BW.
Makenzee Mason knocked down one of two free throws at the other end to push BC’s lead back to two.
Boehm missed on the tying bid with just under 10 seconds left, which was rebounded on the baseline and turned over with 5.1 seconds left to give BW one last shot.
Boehm got the ball to the right elbow and found Schone open underneath. Schone caught in midair and shot, but was off the mark just before the buzzer.
“I thought our girls did a fantastic job to battle – to have a couple of possessions at the end to get a (couple of chances) to tie it … it just fell a little bit short,” Crawford said. “I think it’s a testament to our girls’ tenacity, their heart and their pride in themselves to face adversity and preserver through it.”
Maddy Wyant hit a pair of 3-pointers and turned one of them into a 4-point play and Mason and McKenzie Powers each connected from deep as well to account for the 14th-seeded Bulldogs’ 13-0 start.
“That releases pressure a little bit,” BC coach Chad Little said. “We’re just a loose group by nature. I was watching us pregame and I thought we looked OK. We’re loose, we’re dancing and at the end of the game – we looked the complete opposite.”
Schone knocked down a pair of free throws with 3:22 left in the opening frame to finally get BW on the board. The Eagles cut the deficit to 15-6 at the end of one.
Wyant knocked down a 3-pointer to open the second and Chloe Davis added an and-one and two free throws to push the lead to 17 with 5:54 left in the half.
“They started out hot and we kept telling our girls to stay in it … they weren’t going to keep going like that and they didn’t,” Crawford said. “It was a big hole to climb out of.”
Payton Carter scored a pair of baskets off a put-back and an Alyssa Tarney feed to highlight an 8-2 run for the Eagles, who closed the half down 25-14.
Davis scored back-to-back baskets and Wyant added a pair of free throws in a 6-0 BC spurt to push the lead to 37-20 with 2:05 left in the third quarter.
Boehm, Schone and Tarney all had steals that led to baskets to get those six points back and BW trailed 37-26 at the end of three.
The Eagles continued the run to start the fourth. Boehm and Tarney each knocked down a pair of free throws, Brooke Stooksbury added a short jumper before Schone scored the final four points of the run on a pair at the line and a basket to cut it to 38-36 with 4:33 left.
Davis added a put-back and Mason hit two free throws sandwiched around a third by Nikki Bradbury to push the Bulldog lead to 43-36 with 1:00 left, setting up the final sequence.
“We weren’t trying to stall,” Little said. “We kept telling our kids at the timeouts that we needed to go north-south. We needed to get to the rim. We needed to create offense. We looked like we were in a delay, but we really were not.”
Tarney also had three steals and Carter had nine rebounds to go with four points for the Eagles.
Wyant finished with 17 points; Davis added 14 points, seven rebounds, three blocks and three assists; Mason chipped in six points, six rebounds and three assists; and Bradbury helped out with six rebounds and three assists to lead the Bulldogs (15-10).
“The two of them (Wyant and Davis) – over this last stretch of games – have been really good,” Little said. “Maddy shot it really well and Chloe is a safety blanket. I’m glad she’s on my team.”
BC is back in the district title game for the second straight year after getting hot at the right time. The Bulldogs, who have won seven out of their last eight, will face fourth-seeded Jonathan Alder Friday night at 8:30 p.m. at Westerville Central High School.
Delaware Christian won each of the final three quarters, but it wasn’t enough to dig out of an early 19-6 first-quarter hole — a hole which ultimately turned into a 44-38 loss to Shekinah Christian in the first round of the Division IV district tournament Tuesday night at Jonathan Alder.
The 10th-seeded Eagles (9-14) battled back with a 12-8 second, 7-5 third and 13-12 fourth, but fell a few possessions short of completing the comeback.
Jon Walter had 12 points to lead DCS while Kent Gingerich and Ben Hershberger poured in 13 and 12, respectively, for sixth-seeded Shekinah Christian (15-8).
Follow Michael Rich on Twitter @mrichnotwealthy or contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.