By Garth Shanklin
Two Clermont County schools began sectional tournament play earlier this month knowing if the stars aligned they could face each other for a sectional title.
Batavia and Goshen both entered into the Walnut Hills sectional, and both schools defeated their first-round opponents. One game stood between the two and a third match of the season. For Batavia, the Lady Bulldogs had to face Taft, while Goshen drew Wyoming.
Both games were held at Walnut Hills High School on Feb. 21, and both games were quite interesting.
Goshen started the night off poorly. The Lady Warriors were down 16-5 at the end of the first quarter and 18-5 early in the second. The team went on a run, out-scoring Wyoming 12-2 over the final 6:11 of the second quarter to pull within three points at halftime.
Goshen battled with Wyoming through the third quarter and entered the fourth period down 30-28. With 4:37 remaining, Goshen’s Olivia Taulbee connected on a two-pointer that sparked a 17-0 run for Goshen that ended the game. The Lady Warriors rallied for the 52-40 win.
Goshen head coach Brandon Baker said he was happy with how his team responded to falling behind.
“That was an intense game,” Baker said. “Wyoming’s a good basketball team. I was proud of our girls fighting back. They came out and punched us in the mouth. They’re good.”
Taulbee tallied 14 points, seven of which came in the fourth quarter. Goshen was led by 21 points from Paige Garr, who scored 17 in the second half.
“She’s good,” Baker said. “Sometimes I take her for granted, she’s a great player. One thing that she does great is she’s automatic at the free-throw stripe. She’s smart enough and our team is smart enough to know that if they’re fouling, get the ball to [Garr] and she’ll put the ball in the basket.”
Garr made all six of her free-throw attempts in the fourth quarter. As a team, Goshen attempted 13 free-throws in the fourth period, making 10 of them. Baker said the team’s lack of energy early on contributed to their mistakes in the first half.
“At halftime, the way I explained it to the girls, was welcome to tournament basketball,” “The last few years, we haven’t gotten out of the first round. The level of intensity in the second round is just different. No matter who you play, it’s going to be somebody good and they’re going to come at you. We just couldn’t match their intensity at the start of the first quarter. Give [Wyoming] credit. Sometimes, when you have a long week like they did with the bye, they could lose energy, enthusiasm. They came out firing and we were not ready for their energy.”
Defensively, the Lady Warriors gave up 20 points in the second half, but none over the final 5:08 of the game. Baker said the team did two things to shut down Wyoming.
“Number one, I told the girls that we were going to win the game with the defense, and that they had to sit down and guard,” Baker said. “That’s not really on me, that’s our girls stepping up and making play after play defensively. The other thing is that Anna Dowd, who has been battling through a lot of sickness and injuries lately, she’s had a bit of a rough stretch. We put her at the front of that press and told her we need her energy, we need her length and we needed her to make things happen, and she did.”
Batavia hit the court next, and the Lady Bulldogs’ contest against Taft was the exact opposite of the Lady Warriors. Batavia led Taft 10-5 at the end of the first period. After the Lady Senators cut the lead to three early in the second period, Batavia finished the quarter on a 17-2 run to take a 27-9 lead into the break.
“They came at us with some defensive pressure and we were able to spread the floor,” Batavia head coach Jon Nau said. “We got enough penetration that we got 10 combined points from Stephanie Carter and Carly Werring, which is more than they’ve been scoring. They put themselves in great scoring position down low.”
Batavia would need every point they could get in the third quarter, as the team’s defense continued their strong play, limiting Taft to just six points. Batavia scored seven, including a two-pointer from Maggie Mehlman. Mehlman scored 10 points in the game to pace Batavia.
“Maggie Mehlman, once again, tremendous leadership on both ends of the floor,” Nau said. “She got her, by now, required fourth foul early in the fourth quarter. That throws us into a bit of a situation, we have to have her on the court.”
The fourth quarter was an interesting one for Batavia. The team only scored one point, with Taft tallying 12. The Lady Senators made it close at the end, but Batavia advanced to the sectional finals for the first time since 2008 and just the second time since 1999 with the victory.
“We got a little cautious,” Nau said. “We were up 27-9 at the half, we got a little too cautious which is my fault. We just kind of milked the clock a little bit.”
The Lady Bulldogs’ 35-27 victory was their 10th on the season, making the 2016-2017 campaign the first since 2009 in which the team won 10 games.
In order to win their 11th, they would have to knock off the Lady Warriors. Goshen’s defense held Batavia to single-digit scoring in all four quarters en route to a 53-24 sectional championship victory. Manhattan Miller led Batavia with six points. Garr led Goshen with 14. Taulbee added 13 and Dowd chipped in 10.
With the victory, the Lady Warriors advanced to the district championship against Archbishop Alter at Mason High School on Friday, March 3, 2017. Alter ended the season as the top-ranked team in the city and the second-ranked team in all of Ohio, according to the Associated Press. Goshen finished the regular season fifth in the coaches’ poll.