by Gregg Meadows
Give them a big stage on the hardwood, and more often times than not, the Tri-Valley Lady Dawgs deliver.
And deliver they did, Saturday, Jan. 16 at the nationally-recognized and respected girls hoops ‘Classic in the Country’ with their decisive 57-46 victory over state-ranked Lima Bath at Hiland High School’s renowned Perry Reese Jr. Center.
The ‘Classic in the Country’ is a 20-game, three-day high school girls basketball extravaganza held annually over the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend in Berlin, Ohio. The ‘Classic’ is widely recognized across the nation as one of the country’s finest girls basketball showcases, which not only showcases the life of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., but Hiland High School basketball legendary coach, the late Perry Reese Jr., as well.
Denied a chance for a shot at a state title last season (due to the COVID-19 national pandemic) – after advancing to the Final Four (and just minutes from taking the floor at OSU’s St. John Arena in the state semi-final vs Napoleon) Coach Kurt Kaufman’s Lady Dawg hoopsters returned to the hardcourt spotlight with the school’s third trip to the Classic in the Country, and they made the most of it against the state-ranked Lima Bath Lady Wildcats.
The Lady Dawgs jumped out to a quick 7-0 lead, thanks to a steal and lay-up by senior standout Riley Tracy for TV’s first points, then a pair of running lane floaters and a free throw from super sophomore and leading scorer Lexi Howe. Lima Bath recovered from their slow start, with five straight points, but quickly discovered the talents of Howe, who closed the first frame for TV with yet another pair of athletic drives to the hoop for four points, as the ‘underdog’ Lady Dawgs held the upper hand at the first break with an 11-7 lead.
Steady Tri-Valley junior starter Anna Krupa opened the second stanza with a three-point swisher from deep in the right corner for a 14-7 lead, which grew to 15-7 with a Janie McLoughlin charity toss. Lima Bath answered with a fielder, then the Lady Dawgs got a hustle bucket underneath from senior Tailor Dupler. The Lady Wildcats scored on two straight possessions to cut into the TV lead, but the Lady Dawgs answered by hitting the offensive boards, as freshman Eva Dittmar and Riley Tracy converted consecutive rebound buckets for a 21-15 lead. Lima Bath scored a quick counter on their end, but TV’s Dupler again proved her worth, converting a loose ball into points for a 23-17 lead. But a last-second Lady Wildcat trey made it 23-20, as the black-and-gold jogged to the halftime locker room with a slim three-point lead.
Both teams got the offense rolling in the third quarter, with the Lady Dawgs scoring on six of their 12 possessions, building their lead to 38-31 heading into the fourth quarter. Tracy’s rebound bucket started the third period for Tri-Valley, followed by an Anna Krupa banked-in three-point long looper, a Lexi Howe lane drive two-pointer, then a nifty left-handed lay-in off the glass from Tailor Dupler off a nice Janie McLoughlin feed to give the Lady Dawgs a 32-23 lead midway through the quarter. TV came up empty on three straight possessions, but Tracy capped the quarter with a pair of three-point lasers from the same spot on the floor to give her team its seven-point edge at the end of three periods of play.
Tracy would add two more three-point bombs in the fourth quarter; those six points – coupled with a pair of good moves close to the hoop from freshman Eva Dittmar for four points – were the only shots the winning Lady Dawgs hit – and needed – from the field in the final eight minutes, as the last two minutes of the contest saw Tri-Valley cash in eight of the nine attempts from the free-throw line to seal the final 11-point, 57-46 win.
The big victory hiked Coach Kaufman’s charges to 12-2 overall on the 2020-21 season, while the Lima Bath Lady Wildcats fell to 13-2 on the season.
Tracy’s game-high 19 points led Tri-Valley, who also got double-figure scoring from Howe with 15 and Krupa with 10. Duper added six key points and a big seven rebounds for the winners as well. Madelyn Renner’s 16 points and 13 from Rachel Clark led the Lady Wildcats.
Riley Tracy, 19 pts. vs Lima Bath
Gregg Meadows photos
TV’s Lexi Howe
15 pts. vs Lima Bath
Tri-Valley returns to Muskingum Valley League action on Wednesday night, Jan. 20 when they welcome the New Lexington Lady Panthers to Dresden and The Dawg House for a conference battle.