THE PLAINS, Ohio — With defense like that, your offense can afford to take a night off.
The seventh-seeded River Valley girls basketball team forced 21 turnovers and held 10-seed Wellston to 12.5 percent shooting from the field in Wednesday night’s Division III sectional semifinal at Athens High School’s McAfee Gymnasium, as the Lady Raiders claimed the 38-16 victory.
The Lady Rockets (1-21) took a 1-o lead in the contest, as RVHS (11-12) was held scoreless for the first three minutes of play. However, Wellston didn’t score again in the first period, with the Silver and Black finishing the stanza with a 7-0 run and a 7-1 lead.
The Blue and Gold sank the first two buckets of the second period, one trifecta and one two-pointer, cutting the margin to 7-6 with six minutes left in the first half. The Lady Raiders outscored WHS 7-to-4 over the remainder of the second quarter, making the RVHS lead 14-10 at halftime.
Wellston led the rebounding battle 21-to-15 in the first half, including an 8-to-3 edge on the offensive glass.
The Lady Raiders began the second half with a seven-minute 10-1 run, making the score 24-11 in favor of the Silver and Black. Both teams sank a three-pointer in the final minute of the third canto, and RVHS took a 27-14 lead into the finale.
Wellston managed just two points in the fourth quarter, while River Valley shot 4-of-11 from the field in the stanza to secure the 38-16 victory and the spot in Saturday’s sectional final.
“We were able to pull it out, but it wasn’t pretty,” River Valley head coach Sarah Evans-Moore said. “We haven’t even had a full practice since we played last, with people sick and with the weather. Coming in tonight we were a little flat, and we didn’t seem to have the intensity that we needed in the first half. We kind of got after them at halftime, they picked it up and that’s what we needed to push us over the edge.”
RVHS ended the contest with a 36-34 rebounding advantage, and the Lady Raiders pulled down six offensive boards in the second half, one more than Wellston did.
The Lady Raiders were led by senior Shelby Brown with 13 points and seven rebounds, followed by Courtney Smith with seven points, nine rebounds and three assists. Jaden Neal scored five points, Maggie Campbell and Tianna Qualls each added four, while Erin Jackson came away with three points and two assists. RVHS senior and Fairmont State University signee Leia Moore recorded two points, six rebounds and three assists for the victors.
Smith and Brown also led the Silver and Black defensively with four and three steals respectively, while Qualls marked a team-best four blocked shots.
For the game River Valley shot 8-of-12 (66.7 percent) from the free throw line and 14-of-48 (29.2 percent) from the field, including 2-of-15 (13.3 percent) from beyond the arc. As a team the Silver and Black recorded 10 assists, 10 steals, seven blocks and 17 turnovers.
“Offensively we couldn’t get much of a rhythm going,” Evans-Moore said. “We took some shots that we were making in the last two-or-three games, but we did not hit them tonight. We kind of changed our plan and looked to put it inside and that helped us a little bit.”
WHS senior Alexis Green led the Blue and Gold with nine points and 13 rebounds, while Sydney Mullins scored four points. Amber Kisor rounded out the Lady Rocket scoring with three points to go with eight rebounds.
Lauren Riepenhoff posted a team-best three assists, Green and Katelyn Stewart led the defense with two steals apiece, while Kisor blocked two shots.
The Lady Rockets made 2-of-6 (33.3 percent) free throws and 6-of-48 (12.5 percent) field goal attempts, including 3-of-26 (11.5 percent) three-point tries. Collectively, the Blue and Gold posted five assists, five steals, three rejections and 21 turnovers.
River Valley also topped Wellston twice this regular season, first on December 7 by a 47-29 count in Jackson County, and again on January 14 by a 60-37 final in Bidwell.
The Silver and Black now move on the Saturday’s sectional final at McAfee Gymnasium, where they will face second-seeded Southeastern at 2 p.m.
Alex Hawley can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2100.