A nine-point halftime lead felt good, but Carroll girls basketball coach Cecilia Grosselin knew it didn’t mean much against Trotwood-Madison, the state’s fifth-ranked team in Division II.
“We told them at halftime that they’re going to come out and be aggressive and they’re going to be focused and try to turn the game around and we have to have composure,” Grosselin said. “You have to keep going and play confident.”
Trotwood, the No. 2 seed, proved Grosselin right with its full-court pressure to cut fourth-seeded Carroll’s lead to two a minute into the fourth quarter. But the Patriots heeded their coach’s advice to keep going and play confidently. They protected the ball, attacked the basket and made eight of nine free throws in the final minutes to hold on for a 52-41 victory in a Division II sectional final.
“We kept our composure and we knew we could pull it out,” said Carroll junior Elisabeth Bush, who scored a game-high 21 points. “We worked really hard to get to this point, and we weren’t going to give up.”
In the second final of the night, top-seeded and fourth-ranked Tippecanoe also had to survive a late push by fifth-seeded Kenton Ridge for a 48-43 victory. KR rallied from 10 down to trail 44-43 with 2:20 left, but Tipp controlled the ball and made free throws to hang on.
“It wasn’t the most pretty game on our end, but when adversity hit us we were able to battle back,” Tipp coach Andy Holderman said. “This was a great test for us, a great tournament atmosphere.”
Carroll (16-9) and Tipp (23-2) will play in district finals Friday night at Mason High School against two surprise teams. Carroll will face Franklin (18-6), which was seeded fifth in the Lebanon sectional. Tipp will face Goshen (14-11), a No. 6 seed in the Cincinnati sectional.
Carroll made three 3-pointers — Allie Stefanek, Marina Stevens, Bush — in the first quarter to take a 16-5 lead. Stefanek made two more and Bush made another in the first two minutes of the second quarter for a 24-10 lead.
“We knew exactly what they were going to do and we practiced closing out to contest all the shots,” Trotwood coach Hank Benton said. “You teach and teach and they just do what they want to do sometimes. They didn’t do anything offensively different than what we knew they were going to do.”
Down by 14, Trotwood began to take the 3-point shot away from the Patriots. But led by Bush and Ava Lickliter the Patriots attacked the pressure and the basket effectively enough to hang onto the lead.
“We have Plan B ready,” Grosselin said. “We knew what we had to do in the different situations we would come across.”
Making a return trip to districts was a goal for the young Patriots, who lost seven seniors from last year’s regional finalist. Bush made a big difference starting in the 12th game after becoming eligible. She transferred from Miami Valley School.
“I love getting to know the girls and I’m really glad that we’ve been growing closer together,” Bush said. “I think it’s been showing on the court, and I’m looking forward to the next game.”
Trotwood’s comeback was led by Shaiquel McGruder, who has signed with New Mexico. McGruder, who transferred this past offseason from Wayne, scored 14 points and sparked her team’s defensive effort.
“We just prepared all year, all week to never give up,” Benton said. “We hang our hat on our defense and we felt like our defense would always keep us in the game, give us an opportunity at the end of the game to have a chance to win. That’s what you saw tonight.”
Tipp had to fight off Kenton Ridge in much the same way despite a 14-2 run to close the first half with a 26-20 lead and a 13-2 run to go up 39-29 late in the third quarter.
Tipp was led by transfer Maddie Frederick with 16 points, including a pull-up 3-pointer to start the Red Devils on their third-quarter run. Frederick moved in from Arizona and has signed with Iowa State.
“It’s been a lot of fun,” Frederick said. “We’re growing together each and every game and getting to know each other better. It’s just becoming a family.”
Tipp has been playing without second-leading scorer Allison Mader in the tournament because of a concussion. Holder said she won’t play Friday, but she might return if the Red Devils advance to regionals.
Third-seeded Greeneview (21-3) had beaten WL-Salem 44-33 in the regular season.