SPRINGFIELD — Waynesville High School girls basketball coach Tim Gabbard likes to call Springfield his team’s “home away from home.”
The Spartans have advanced to the Division III district tournament five of the last six years and often find a way to win, despite not playing their best basketball, he said.
“We’re familiar with it,” Gabbard said. “We just find a way to win.”
They’ll make a return trip to Springfield next week for the D-III regional semifinals. The Spartans overcame a nine-point halftime deficit to beat Cincinnati Mariemont 33-29 in a D-III district final game on Saturday afternoon to advance to the regional semifinals for the third time in the last four seasons.
“We did the same thing (in the district semifinal) against West Liberty,” Gabbard said. “We were down six or seven in the first half and outscored them 18-8 in the second half to beat them. It’s just the way we play for some reason, I don’t know why. It gives me gray hairs. We handled the ball well and we put in our quick team to press and that helps a lot.”
Junior Isabella Cassoni scored a game-high 21 points as the Spartans (16-7) won their fifth straight game.
“We pulled it out,” Cassoni said. “We had a rough first half, but we kept pushing and we pulled out the win.”
The Warriors led 7-6 after the first quarter. They went on a 10-2 run in the second quarter, capped by a 3-pointer by Ally Frye to give Mariemont a 17-8 lead at the half.
In the second half, the Spartans turned up the pressure defensively, capping a 15-3 run on a steal and layup by Cassoni to take a 23-20 lead with less than six minutes remaining.
“We kind of had a rough shooting day, but I knew I had to step up and be a leader,” Cassoni said.
Cassoni scored 11 points in the fourth quarter, making 4-of-5 free throws.
“Her quickness and ball handling are so good,” Gabbard said. “Sometimes she’s too quick. She had a great game scoring-wise, thank goodness, because no one else was hitting. I think I looked up there once and she had 20 and we had 26.”
Mariemont cut the lead to 32-29 on a 3-pointer by sophomore Kendall Spreen with less than a minute remaining. The Spartans turned the ball over on their next possession, but the Warriors weren’t able to capitalize. Waynesville senior Leah Butterbaugh hit a free throw down the stretch to seal the victory.
Waynesville advanced to play Worthington Christian at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday in a D-III regional semifinal game at Springfield. Gabbard doesn’t know much about his team’s next opponent, but that’s typical for this time of year, he said.
“We don’t look ahead,” Gabbard said. “We try not to do that, we’re a little superstitious. Obviously, they’re good.”
Waynesville is back in the regional semifinals after falling to Purcell Marian in the district finals last winter.
“We’ve worked very hard for it,” Cassoni said. “Every girl showed up every day and pushed themselves. We’ve gotten a lot better and we’re ready to keep going. I feel like we’ve worked our butts off and we’re ready for the next one.”
Anna 40, Williamsburg 20: The Rockets held the Wildcats to six points in the second half to advance to play the winner of Purcell Marian and Carlisle in a D-III regional semifinal game at 8 p.m. Wednesday at Springfield.
Junior Breann Reaman (16 points) and senior Ella Doseck (14 points) combined for 30 of the team’s 40 points. Anna improved to 18-7 overall.
Carroll 53, Summit Country Day 31: The Patriots (18-4) outscored the Silver Knights 32-18 in the second half on Friday night at Mason High School to advance to the D-II regional semifinals for the third straight season.
The Patriots will play Valley View in the regional semifinals at 8 p.m. Tuesday at Springfield.
Valley View 62, Trotwood-Madison 50: The Spartans (19-5) advanced to the regional semifinals for the third straight season.
Carroll beat Valley View 57-19 in a regional semifinal game last season.