Girls basketball: Alter begins quest for second straight state title

NEW CARLISLE — The top-ranked Alter High School girls basketball team’s quest for back-to-back Division II state championships began with its ninth straight postseason victory.

The No. 1-seeded Knights beat Stivers 70-9 in a D-II North 2 first round game on Wednesday night at Tecumseh High School.

Alter junior Riley Smith had 16 points and sophomore Maddie Moody added 12 as the Knights (20-3) surpassed 20 wins for the second straight season.

“This is a great start,” said Knights co-coach Christina Hart. “I thought that we had a good start to the game. We’ve had good practices leading up to today, which is something you always want at this time of the year. Our kids have been focused, we’ve improved in our practices and I thought it showed here.”

Stivers sophomore Katherine Jackson had eight points for the Tigers, which finished their season 8-12.

Alter advanced to face Kenton Ridge (4-18) in a second round game at 4 p.m. Saturday at Tecumseh.

The Knights returned all but three players from last year’s squad that won the program’s fifth state championship. They’ve had a target on their backs all year and have handled it great, Hart said.

“The kids have never been in the role that they’ve been in this year,” she said. “They have learned and matured and grown into those roles throughout the season. It’s been a fantastic group to work with, just really good.”

Several new additions to Division II, including last year’s D-III state champion and fourth-ranked Purcell Marian and perennial power Waynesville, will make it even more difficult to navigate this postseason. They also have to contend with Cincinnati Summit Country Day and eighth-ranked Hamilton Badin, which split with the Knights this season.

“It’s going to be a haul,” Hart said. “If we can get to regionals, that’s a great accomplishment and if we can get through that regional, wow.”

While the Knights know the road back to Dayton will be a tough one, they’re not looking ahead.

“The next opponent is our best opponent,” Hart said.

Greenon 72, Eaton 64, OT: Greenon senior guard Claire Henry scored nine of her team-high 23 points in overtime as the fifth-seeded Knights advanced to the D-II North 2 second round.

Knights senior Abby West added 16 points and 12 rebounds as Greenon improved to 19-4.

“I know it was scary,” said Greenon coach Nick Minnich, who earned his first tournament victory. “Our seniors have been carrying us all year and that was one more step with it.”

Knights sophomore Avery Minteer scored 14 points and sophomore Sarah Riley added 10 points as Greenon advanced to face the winner of No. 9 Thurgood Marshall and No. 14 Trotwood Madison in a second round game at 4 p.m. Saturday at Tecumseh.

Eaton senior Lily Shepherd scored a game-high 24 points, while sophomore Olivia Orr had 12 and senior Emma Baumann added 11 as the Eagles finished the season 12-11.

The Knights led by as many as 11 points in the first half, but the Eagles cut the lead to 30-25 at the half. Greenon extended its lead to 53-39 with six minutes remaining, but Eaton — a D-II regional semifinalist last season — wouldn’t go away.

The Eagles went on a 18-4 run to end regulation, tying the game on a layup by Orr with 9.5 seconds remaining. Greenon had a chance to win the game at the buzzer, but Henry’s runner from the top of the key rimmed out.

Henry scored the first four points of the overtime to give the Knights a 61-57 lead. West followed with two more baskets to make it 65-62 with 1:15 remaining.

Eaton’s Orr hit two free throws to make it 65-64, but the Eagles wouldn’t get any closer. Henry scored five straight points to give Greenon the lead for good.

Minnich was proud of his team’s effort against a tough opponent in their first D-II postseason game. The Knights moved up this season after advancing to the D-III district tournament last year.

“It’s huge for our team to win this kind of game,” Minnich said. “I told them that in D-III you may have some easier games, but it’s not that way (in D-II). We knew the first game was going to be tough.”

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