ROCKSPRINGS, Ohio — The third time wasn’t so charming after all.
The sixth-seeded Southern girls basketball team had its season come to an end on Saturday afternoon inside Meigs High School’s Larry R. Morrison Gymnasium, as third-seeded Belpre claimed a 42-34 victory in the sectional final, the Lady Eagles’ third win over the Purple and Gold in as many chances.
Neither team made a field goal over the first 5:30, with Southern (12-11) claiming a 2-to-1 advantage on free throws. SHS junior Jaiden Roberts hit a three-pointer with 2:29 left in the first half, pushing the Lady Tornado lead to 5-1 on the game’s first field goal.
Belpre (16-7) made its first field goal — a two-pointer — just 20 seconds later, but Southern outscored the Orange and Black 7-to-4 over the final two minutes of the first quarter, making the SHS lead 12-7, eight minutes into play.
The Lady Eagles took their first lead of the game, at 14-13, 3:45 into the second quarter and they never trailed again. BHS pushed its lead to as high as seven, at 20-13, with 2:48 left in the first half.
Southern cut the Belpre lead to 23-21 by halftime, but never came closer than two points.
The Lady Eagles outscored SHS by a 7-to-5 clip in the third quarter, as the Belpre lead grew to 30-26 headed into the fourth.
Within the opening 30 seconds of the finale, Southern cut the BHS lead to two points with a pair of free throws. However, the Lady Eagles scored the next four points and led 34-28 with three minutes to play.
SHS was held without a field goal in the entire fourth quarter, but hit 6-of-8 free throws over the final three minutes. Belpre scored eight points over the final three minutes — on one field goal and 6-of-7 free throws — sealing the 42-34 victory and the Lady Eagles’ second straight sectional title.
The Lady Tornadoes held a 41-to-27 rebounding advantage, including a 16-to-6 edge on the offensive glass. However, Southern turned the ball over 25 times, nine more than BHS. Belpre recorded the game’s only two rejections, while holding advantages in assists (6-to-4) and steals (16-to-9).
Southern made just 6-of-45 (13.3 percent) field goal tries, including 2-of-10 (20 percent) three-point tries. Meanwhile, Belpre shot 13-of-39 (33.3 percent) from the field, including 0-of-12 from beyond the arc. From the charity stripe, the Lady Tornadoes shot 20-of-32 (62.5 percent) and the Lady Eagles shot 16-of-27 (59.3 percent).
“Defensively it was exactly what we planned for,” SHS head coach Kent Wolfe said. “I felt that we had an opportunity to win and that’s all we can ask our kids to do. They fought real hard defensively, but we just had some shots on the offensive end that we need to make. I’m proud of them, I thought our kids played as hard as they could play, we just didn’t make any shots.”
SHS senior Faith Teaford led the Purple and Gold with a double-double of 12 points and 10 rebounds. Macie Michael, Sierra Cleland and Jaiden Roberts each scored five points for SHS, Phoenix Cleland added four points, while Baylee Wolfe chipped in with three.
Teaford, Michael, Sierra Cleland and Josie Cundiff each had one assist in the setback. Michael led the Lady Tornado defense with four steals.
Belpre — which has now won nine sectional crowns — was led by senior Cheyenne Barker with 16 points and four assists. Kyna Waderker and Trinidy King both scored eight points, with Waderker marking a team-high nine rebounds and King adding a game-best six steals.
Kaitlin Richards and Alexandria Williams both scored four points in the win, while Sydney Spencer chipped in with two points.
Belpre also defeated Southern twice in the regular season, winning by identical counts of 54-43 on December 19, in Meigs County and on January 26, in Washington County.
This marks the final game in the Purple and Gold for Southern seniors Sierra Cleland, Macie Michael, Ashley Acree and Wilmington College signee Faith Teaford.
“I hate to see it end for our four seniors,” said Coach Wolfe. “Ashley was with me for two years, but Faith, Sierra and Macie have taken a lot of yelling and a lot of instruction from me. I’m real proud of them. We have a lot of work to do, there are a lot of good teams in this league coming, and we’re losing four seniors. We have some kids who need to work and get better.”
Belpre will face second-seeded South Webster in Saturday’s district semifinal, at Jackson High School. The Lady Jeeps advanced past seventh-seeded Western, by a 40-39 final, on Saturday at Northwest High School.
Alex Hawley can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2100.