DOVER -- The girls' basketball teams from Indian Valley High and Ridgewood High earned berths in the Division III District Tournament with Sectional Final wins at Dover High School on Thursday.
Indian Valley escaped with a 46-44 win over Harrison Central thanks to a buzzer-beating bucket by junior Emily Baker.
The Lady Braves found themselves clinging to a 44-39 lead when Baker drained a pair of free throws with 1:45 remaining. Harrison Central ate into the lead with two free throws by Katie Ellzy with 1:25 left. The points still left Indian Valley with a 44-41 lead.
Trying to play a bit of "keep-away" with the ball, Indian Valley was unable to maintain possession and committed a turnover with slightly more than a minute to play.
Harrison capitalized immediately when senior Shannon Compher drilled a "trey" to knot the score at 44-44 with 50 seconds left.
Indian Valley squandered its ensuing opportunity and the Lady Huskies rebounded and called time-out with :23.8 left.
Trying to in-bounds the pass from mid-court, the Indian Valley man-to-man defense throttled the intended pass receivers and Harrison was whistled for a 5-second call. Possession to the Lady Braves again.
This time, Indian Valley got a shot by Baker which missed. Harrison rebounded, but the rebounder fell and was whistled for traveling. Possession went back to the Lady Braves with 2.4 seconds under their offensive goal.
Indian Valley coach Randy Emler called time-out to set up the final play. It called for two players to set screens for Baker, moving from one wing to the other. The play worked to perfection. Baker took the in-bounds pass and swished a 12-footer to win the game.
"We created that play during the second half of our season," Emler explained. "As happy as I am with Emily's bucket, I was equally happy with our execution. We set a pair of perfect screens and made a perfect in-bounds pass."
During the early stages, it looked like late-game heroics would not be necessary. Indian Valley jumped out to a 12-2 lead before Harrison's Ellzy tallied six unanswered points to bring her team to a 12-8 deficit. A Paige Saho bucket sent the Lady Braves into the second frame up 14-8.
Four more points by Ellzy helped spur her team to an 18-18 deadlock before Courtney Emler's pair of free throws sent Indian Valley into intermission up 20-18.
The second half's early stages saw the Lady Braves turn up the defensive heat.
"We pressured them a bit in the first half," Emler said, "but in the second half, we told our kids to increase the pressure. It really paid off."
Harrison Central committed 16 second-half turnovers and were fortunate to tie the contest late. Indian Valley managed a 13-10 advantage in the third period before HC returned the favor and posted a three point margin, 16-13, in the final frame.
Baker's heroics produced 13 points. Teammates Emler and Katie Shamel added 12 and 10, respectively. Indian Valley made 17-of-43 action shots and added 12-of-19 free throws. They finished with 15 turnovers and 37 rebounds. Saho's 13 rebounds paced the winners in that category. Baker was credited with four steals.
For Harrison Central (12-12), Ellzy finished with a game-high total of 20 points and 16 rebounds. The all-District soph nearly finished with a triple-double as she swatted away seven IV shot attempts. Her team finished with 46 rebounds and 25 turnovers. They were 17-of-50 from the floor and 8-of-10 from the line.
"This was a big win for our program," Emler said. "Its been 11 years since Indian Valley's girls have won a sectional. I am so happy for our kids. This season has been a total team effort."
Ridgewood needed no late-game heroics to post its win over Tuscarawas Valley.
Five weeks ago, Ridgewood squandered a four-point lead and lost a 43-30 regular season game to Tusky Valley. This time around, the Lady Generals sent an early message that the sectional title was going back to West Lafayette as they zoomed out to a 12-3 first period lead and never looked back.
Just as in their previous sectional win, Ridgewood dominated with their inside game and got an early scoring boost from sophomore Amanda Lowery, who tallied a dozen first half points to lead her team to a comfortable 24-9 halftime lead.
The inside height of Lowery, Kelsey Miller, Emily McCoy and Laura Frazee completely stifled the inside game of Tusky Valley's all-District senior Katlynn Dunlap, who managed just three points for the entire game.
The Ridgewood size and quickness allowed them to play their zone defenses effectively, which was the key to the win according to coach Doug Patterson.
"In our loss to them in January," he said, "they hit seven 'treys.' Tonight, we wanted to get out on their shooters better. They made a couple of 'threes' in the fourth quarter, but it was too late. Our zone also limited them to just one shot most of the time as well."
For the game, Tusky Valley produced just two "treys" in 10 attempts.
Ridgewood's third period served notice that there would be no comeback this night, as the Lady Generals slowly and steadily built their lead, taking a commanding 38-20 lead into the final frame.
Tusky made its final run, a 9-2 spurt to begin the fourth, to close to a 40-29 deficit. The run ate up five minutes of clock time, however, and was negated by a 7-0 Ridgewood spurt which ended all doubt as to the final outcome.
Tusky Valley (10-14) was limited to just 11-of-40 field goal shooting. They added 8-of-13 free throws and managed just 22 rebounds as the Lady Generals dominated yet another tourney foe on the boards.
Miller's 15 rebounds and Lowery's seven caroms accounted for most of the Lady General's total of 39. Ridgewood connected on 16-of-35 action attempts and added 15-of-27 charity tosses. They committed 18 turnovers as late-game ball handling led to most of those miscues.
Lowery and Miller paced the Ridgewood scoring with 16 and 15, respectively.
"This is our second sectional title in a row," beamed Patterson. "We're not going to celebrate too hard, because we have to remember how much work it takes to do this. Prior to last year, Ridgewood hadn't won a sectional title in 28 years. We want to go to the district and win there and that will take more work."
Both Indian Valley (15-8) and Ridgewood (12-11) have advanced to Division III District play on Thursday at Steubenville.
Ridgewood will face off against Fort Frye (winner of the sectional at Cambridge) at 6 p.m.
Indian Valley will face either West Muskingum in Thursday's 8 p.m. district semifinal. Thursday's winners will return to play for the D-III District title on Saturday at 7 p.m.