STEUBENVILLE -- In contests which were disappointingly similar, both Ridgewood High and Indian Valley High were ousted from Girls' Basketball Division III District Tournament play in Thursday's semifinals at Steubenville High School.
Neither squad could overcome a poor first half. In the opener, state ranked Fort Frye (22-3) owned a 39-19 halftime lead and cruised to a 65-38 win over Ridgewood (12-12) while the late game saw West Muskingum (14-10) post a 28-18 advantage by intermission and make the lead stand up for a 63-51 triumph over Indian Valley (15-9).
Ridgewood's problems versus Fort Frye actually began with the second period.
After getting 10 combined points from Amanda Lowery and Kelsey Miller, the Lady Generals took early leads of 7-2 and 9-4 before Fort Frye began to sense potential ball handling issues by Ridgewood if full court pressure were applied.
Late first period turnovers by Ridgewood allowed Fort Frye to produce a 10-3 run and take a slim, 14-12 lead into the second period.
Then the Lady Cadets ratcheted up their defensive pressure even more and created a whopping 10 turnovers from Ridgewood in the second. The result was a predictable 25-7 Fort Frye point advantage in the decisive frame and an insurmountable 39-19 halftime lead.
"We were happy with our first quarter," Ridgewood coach Doug Patterson commented. "But in the second period, they pressured us more than we thought they could and we lost our composure.
"But it wasn't just the turnovers. They shot extremely well. Our zone defense didn't eliminate their penetration and didn't get out on their shooters. That's a recipe for problems. They succeeded in making it a full court game and that negated our size advantage."
First half stats supported Patterson's assertion. Fort Frye made 17-of-30 action shots, including five 'treys.'
The winners backed up their second period with a 15-8 third thanks, in part, to another eight Lady General turnovers. Entering the final frame, Ridgewood trailed 54-27. A sloppy fourth quarter saw each team score 11.
Miller and Lowery finished as Ridgewood's two offensive bright spots. In her final game as a Lady General, Miller (a first team AP all-Eastern District selection) tallied 17 points and grabbed a game high eight rebounds. Lowery (Special Mention all-District) finished with 13 points.
Ridgewood went a respectable 17-for-33 from the floor for just over 50 percent, but their solid shooting was negated by a 3-of-13 effort at the foul line and 30 total turnovers.
Fort Frye also shot over 50 percent from the floor at 26-of-50, including seven 'treys.' They nearly placed all five starters in double figures. Taylor Buchanan finished with 17. Brooke Borich scored 14. Morgan Liedtke and Diedra Combs each tallied a dozen. Micayla Hupp just missed double figures, but scored eight. Committing just 14 turnovers themselves, the Lady Cadets amassed 18 steals in the contest.
The loss marked Ridgewood's second straight appearance in the District tourney and, with only Miller departing due to graduation, Patterson is looking forward to next season.
"We feel we're still moving the program in the right direction," he said, "but we want to be able to take the next step.
"It will be tough losing Kelsey (Miller), because she has been such an incredibly hard worker. We wish her nothing but success at the next level."
Indian Valley fell behind early in its contest versus West Muskingum, allowing the Lady Tornadoes to mount runs of 7-0 and 10-0 in the first period and explode out of the gate to a 21-6 first period advantage.
Shooting, or lack of it, was the story of the start. "We couldn't find the range early on," said a disappointed IV coach Randy Emler. "We picked a poor time because they shot well and got out to the lead we could never overcome."
West M made 9-of-18 action shots in the first, while the Lady Braves struggled at just 2-of-17 from the floor. West's pair of tall post players, Dakota McKenzie and Macy Meadows each scored a pair of inside buckets. Perimeter shooter Ali Hazen also shot well and scored seven.
The second period produced a bit of a turnaround as Indian Valley, aided by eight West M turnovers, posted a 12-7 scoring advantage, but still trailed by 10, at 28-18, heading into halftime.
In the decisive third period, West M point guard Amisha Herd began to assert herself. In a largely quiet first half, Herd scored just three points. In the third period, she exploded for seven and was credited for a pair of steals and four assists, leading her team to a 19-9 assault which would produce a 47-27 lead heading into the final quarter.
Playing its best period of the game, Indian Valley rallied to score two dozen points in the fourth, but could get no closer than eight, at 50-42, following a 15-3 run to begin the stanza.
Keying that spurt was the play of junior Emily Baker (a second team, all-District selection), who tallied 15 of her game high 21 points in the fourth, including four 'treys,' along with junior Paige Saho (a third team, all-District selection), who grabbed numerous rebounds against the much taller foes.
Down the stretch, it was a 13-9 West advantage which secured the victory.
"I was real proud of how hard our kids played," Emler noted. "I thought we competed and played a great fourth quarter. At times, we just couldn't contain Herd and allowed her to control the game."
Herd joined Hazen, Meadows and McKenzie in double figures for the winners. She finished with an impressive stat line of 14 points, 3 steals, seven assists and a team high 11 rebounds. Hazen finished with 13 points. McKenzie added a dozen and Meadows earned team high scoring honors with 18, including a stellar 8-of-10 field goal shooting effort. She and McKenzie also combined for 14 rebounds and seven blocked shots.
As a team, West M shot just under 50 percent from the floor at 24-of-49 and was 14-of-21 from the line. They grabbed 36 rebounds and committed 18 turnovers.
For the Lady Braves, Baker was joined in double figure scoring by Saho, who tallied a dozen. Saho also led all players with 15 rebounds and six steals. Sydney Kandray added three 'treys' and Katie Shamel pulled down nine rebounds.
On the game, Indian Valley finished at 16-of-63 from the field and 12-of-19 from the stripe. They snagged 37 rebounds and were whistled for 17 turnovers.
Coach Emler was recently named the Eastern District's Division III Coach-of-the-Year, an honor bestowed not so much for his team's district appearance this season, but for his leadership in resurrecting the Indian Valley program over the past few seasons.
Following the loss, he wanted to pay tribute to his lone departing senior.
"This district appearance," he began, "is a big step forward for our program, but Courtney Emler is the embodiment of our program's progress.
"She was around a few years ago for our 0-21 season and her commitment never wavered. She has meant everything to us. She's gone from the valley to the District tournament in her career. She's been the ultimate team player."