by Gregg Meadows
Coach Kurt Kaufman’s Tri-Valley girls basketball team entered it’s second round, D-I District semi-final contest against highly-touted Westerville South as the decided under ‘dawg’, but didn’t play like one, giving the Lady Wildcats all they wanted – and more – before falling off the tournament trail with a 56-54 loss, ending it’s 2018-19 season with a solid record of 19 wins and just five defeats.
Seeded 14th in one of the four Columbus Central District Division I brackets, the Lady Dawgs were matched up on Wednesday night, February 27 at Heath High School with 6th seeded Westerville South, whose line-up not only included alot of size, but a trio of talented Division I college recruits as well.
A very large, boisterous contingent of Tri-Valley fans nearly filled the visitor’s side at Heath, and cheered the unintimidated Lady Dawgs on, as the black and gold spotted the Lady Wildcats an early 4-0 lead, before roaring back to take a 14-10 late first quarter lead.
Junior standout guard Lauren King got the Lady Dawgs on the scoreboard first, with her coast-to-coast drive to the hoop for two points, followed by a pair of Kyndal Howe free throws, then an Audrey Spiker lay-up off a nice dish from freshman post player Janie McLoughlin. A McLoughlin charity toss, then a three-point laser from senior guard Laiken Little tied the contest at 10-10 at the 3:05 mark of the first frame.
A Spiker lay-up, then a steal by one of the state’s top hoop thieves, resulted in a Lauren King lay-up and a 14-10 lead for Tri-Valley – much to the delight of the Lady Dawg crowd, and dismay of the Westerville lady cagers.
But the Wildcats responded with a strong 7-0 run to close out the first quarter, for a 17-14 lead at the first break.
The Lady Dawgs started the second stanza with a bang, getting a Kyndal Howe rebound bucket, then another Howe lay-up off a nifty assist from Laiken Little, as TV grabbed the lead back at 18-17 over the Lady Wildcats. But a trey from WS’s Gabby Hutcheson (remember that name) and another Lady Wildcat netter saw the home team on the scoreboard leading at 22-18 at the 5:13 mark of the second quarter.
In what turned out to be a game ‘mini-streaks’, Tri-Valley answered the Westerville spurt with a 7-0 charge of their own, thanks to a Little trey, a Janie McLoughlin rebound bucket and two swished charity tosses from Howe, giving the Lady Dawgs a 25-22 lead with 3:47 left in the first half.
Unfortunately, that would be the last time that Tri-Valley would have the lead – for the game – as Lady Wildcat Anyssa Jones single-handedly went on a 7-0 tear to close out the first half to give her team a 31-25 lead at the halftime break.
Westerville South’s tall post defenders put the clamps on the Lady Dawgs inside play in the third quarter, as Tri-Valley relied on the guard play of Spiker and King to help keep the black and gold in the contest.
After a pair of Howe free throws to start the second half, Spiker followed with a banked in trey, then King contributed a lay-up off a nice Howe dish; but TV still trailed 37-32.
King knocked down a pair of charity tosses midway through the period, then Spiker took over, driving the lane three different times for hard-earned netters, the last coming with just 3.9 seconds left in the quarter that got the Lady Dawgs within four at 44-40, heading into what would be a wild and wooly fourth quarter of D-I girls hoops tourney action.
After a WS basket to open the fourth frame, TV’s Howe countered by draining a long trey from behind the arc to pull her team closer at 46-43. Another Lady Wildcat two-pointer pushed the WS lead back to five, but the Lady Dawgs answered with a Howe power move inside for two, then a McLoughlin lay-up off a nice King pass, as Tri-Valley pulled to within a single point at 48-47 at the 4:13 mark of the fourth quarter.
A Westerville free throw, then a dagger of a trey from Lady Wildcat Gabby Hutcheson at the 2:48 mark gave the South cagers a 52-47 lead.
The Lady Dawgs weren’t done yet, and weren’t as well – going down without a fight.
A Riley Tracy rebound stick-back got TV back to a one-possession game at 52-49, but free throws on consecutive possessions for Westerville looked to close out the black and gold at 54-49 with just nine seconds left.
But somebody forgot to tell Lady Dawg Lauren King that the game was over, as the always competitive junior hustler crossed the mid-court line as the final seconds ticked off and let fly with a 35-foot, three-point missile that ripped through the cords to pull Tri-Valley within a bucket at 54-52 with just 3.9 seconds left.
Never say die, heh?
Forced to foul on the in-bounds, Westerville’s Anyssa Jones went to the other end of the floor to convert what the Lady Wildcats surely thought would be the game clinchers, as the pair of charity stripe swishers supposedly put the nails in the Lady Dawgs coffin at 56-52.
Game over……? Not yet, said the black and gold.
King had one more final-second, long-range heave in her, but was fouled on the attempt, making two of her three free throws for the final 56-54 margin, as the Lady Wildcats in-bounded the ball with just .9 seconds for the win.
Kyndal Howe’s 15 points led the Lady Dawgs in scoring, who also got 13 counters apiece from Spiker and King, six from Little, five out of McLoughlin, and Tracy’s fourth quarter fielder for their total of 54 points.
Anysaa Jones led the victorious Lady Wildcats with 24 points, followed by Peyton Guice with nine points, and Gabby Hutcheson’s important eight counters.
With the win, Westerville South advances to the District title game to play Gahanna Lincoln, which upset No. 3 seed Dublin Coffman.
Under’dawgs’ and perhaps a bit under-sized, the Lady Dawgs however weren’t outplayed – just outscored. With just a pair of departing seniors – Laiken Little and Savanna Moran – and nearly the entire starting line-up set to return, Tri-Valley is already looking to next season, with an outside chance as well of sliding down to Division II play. (Tri-Valley is currently one of the smallest ‘big-school’ Division I teams in the state of Ohio.)
Congrats to Coach Kurt Kaufman and the 19-5 Lady Dawg basketball team, on a great season!