JACKSON, Ohio — All good things must come to an end.
The Southern girls basketball team had its historic 2015-16 campaign come to a close in Saturday’s Division IV District Semifinal at Jackson High School, as the fourth-seeded Lady Tornadoes dropped a 57-35 decision to top-seeded South Webster.
Southern (16-7) — which made its first district tournament since 2004 — scored the opening bucket of the game, but the Lady Jeeps (20-4) immediately answered with a three-pointer to take the lead. The Lady Tornadoes quickly regained the lead, but SWHS scored the next six points and led 9-4. The Purple and Gold ended the nearly three-minute dry spell with a Sierra Cleland three-pointer, but South Webster ended the first with a 10-1 run and a 19-8 lead.
Three-pointers by Cleland and Ali Deem allowed Southern to claim six of the first eight second quarter points, trimming the margin to 20-14 with 5:30 left in the half. The Lady Jeeps outscored SHS 10-to-2 over the remainder of the second quarter and led 30-16 at halftime.
South Webster — which recorded five fewer turnovers than Southern in the opening half — won the rebounding battle by a 13-11 tally in the first 16 minutes of play. SWHS hit 47.8 percent of its field goal tries in the first half, while SHS was 6-of-21 for 28.6 percent.
Southern never pulled closer than 12 points in the third quarter and the Lady Jeeps took a 42-27 lead into the finale.
A four-minute, 5-to-1 South Webster run to start the fourth quarter made the deficit 19 points, but Southern answered with back-to-back two-point baskets by Cleland and Faith Teaford. However SWHS responded with a 10-0 run that set the score at 57-32 with 45 seconds left in the game. SHS sophomore Josie Cundiff sank a three-pointer for the game’s final basket, and SHS fell by a 57-35 count.
“Tonight, there’s no doubt that we got beat by a better team,” SHS head coach Kent Wolfe said. “They spread us out and they all could shoot the ball. In the second and third quarters we stayed right with them. They got some shots in at the end and the score is a little bit different than what it should have been.”
Cleland, a 5-8 junior forward, led the Purple and Gold with 16 points and six rebounds, while senior Jansen Wolfe marked six points and six boards. Haley Hill recorded four points and a team-best three assists, while Deem, Cundiff and Teaford each marked three points in the setback.
Teaford — a junior center who pulled in five rebounds for the Purple and Gold — led the defense with two blocked shots and one steal, while Hill came away with two steals.
Southern shot 6-of-9 (66.7 percent) from the free throw line and 12-of-44 (27.3 percent) from the field, including 5-of-22 (22.7 percent) from three-point range. As a team, SHS recorded 12 defensive rebounds, 10 offensive boards, five assists, three steals, four blocks and 21 turnovers.
“When you compare it to Waterford and Eastern, going to districts isn’t a big deal, but its a huge deal to us,” Coach Wolfe said. “When it takes 12 years to get there, it’s extra special. Most of these girls have played three years of varsity ball and they’ve won 48 games. To some schools that may not be a lot, but to Southern girls basketball that’s a lot of wins. I’m blessed to be a part of 32 of those wins.”
Kacie Hall led the victors with 17 points and seven rebounds, while Ellie Jo Johnson recorded 13 points, eight rebounds and three assists. Cheyene Weakley posted 13 points, Maddie Cook added eight, while Kimber Johnson had four points and four assists. Maddie Stamper rounded out the SWHS scoring with two points in the win.
Stamper led the South Webster defense with four steals, followed by Weakley with three. Hall, Weakley and Kimber Johnson each had two blocks for the Lady Jeeps.
South Webster shot 15-of-17 (88.2 percent) from the free throw line and 18-of-41 (43.9 percent) from the field, including 6-of-18 (33.3 percent) from three-point range. As a team, the Red and Black finished with 20 defensive rebounds, eight offensive boards, 11 assists, 13 steals, six blocks and 16 turnovers.
SWHS will face second-seeded Eastern in the district final, on Thursday at Jackson High School.
Southern will now have to say goodbye to seniors Jansen Wolfe, Ali Deem, Haley Hill and Savannah Bailey.
“The seniors were desperately wanting a 2016 on the basketball banner, because they’ve accomplished something in volleyball and in softball,” Coach Wolfe said. “It’s a great day for us because we’re here, but it’s an extremely sad day for us because we lost four kids.
“Each and every one of them have things they do well,” Coach Wolfe added. “To be honest, I don’t know if we’re even here if we don’t have Savannah. With Ali, we’re losing some three-point shooting, and with Haley, you’re not going to find a better defender. Jansen sacrificed some scoring, but got a lot of rebounds for us.”
Alex Hawley can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2100.