Girls basketball: Springboro, Centerville advance to district finals

TROY — The time of day or the opponent doesn’t matter to the top-seeded Springboro girls basketball team. And it doesn’t matter to them that they’re supposed to easily win their sectional games. Just show them where the floor is.

They come to play and play well.

First-year head coach Mike Holweger sees that competitive spirit in his team so much that he wants the early games when he can get them. That’s what he chose the bracket he did when he saw Saturday’s sectional final would be at 12:30 p.m. at Troy High School.

And did the Panthers ever start fast, bolting to a 25-7 first-quarter lead en route to a 57-30 victory over No. 6 Butler. They secured a spot in next Saturday’s Division I district finals at Cincinnati Princeton for the fifth straight year.

“We’ve been really excited about every opportunity to play and the energy was good,” Holweger said. “We did not come in with the attitude that we were supposed to win this game. We came in with the attitude that we wanted to play with tremendous energy and focus.”

Morgan Meek, one of the Panthers’ two seniors, scored 13 points and can’t imagine her team not being ready to play, especially when they see upsets happening around them.

“We have such chemistry with our team, and we always know that everyone’s hungry to beat us,” she said. “We’re looking forward.”

Bryn Martin, the Panthers’ leading scorer, the GWOC player of the year as a junior and a high-level Division I recruit, was unstoppable with 15 of her 23 points in the first quarter.

“It definitely adds more energy to us because we want to play quicker to get her more shots because we know that’s going to benefit us to win,” Meek said.

Martin averages 20.8 points, shoots 51.2% from the field, including 42.9% from 3-point range, and 87.2% from the free-throw line. In the first quarter, she made three 3-pointers, including one from close to 30 feet, and got layups out of the Panthers’ suffocating full-court pressure and double-teams.

“Our goal is to play the best we can possibly play,” Martin said. “We focus on who we’re guarding and what they do best. But we’re also focused on ourselves to make sure we play to our full potential because we know we’re good.”

The Panthers’ defense, with the 6-foot Martin and 6-2 post Aniya Trent at the top creating double teams put Butler, who was missing injured guard Noel Smith, on its heels. Then going the other way, often quickly, the Panthers are adept at passing ahead for open shots. And in the half court they move the ball well. Holweger began emphasizing those offensive mindsets in the summer.

“This group deserves everything that they get because of everything they did in the offseason,” Holweger said.

Centerville 44, Springfield 30: Adam Priefer rarely instructs his Centerville team to play anything but straight-up, man-to-man defense. But it’s tournament time and the plan is always to survive and advance.

So three days after frustrating No. 5 Sidney with a triangle-and-two, he asked his team to do something similar against No. 12 Springfield’s quick backcourt and tall frontcourt. And it worked again to send the No. 8 Elks back to the district finals four the fourth straight year.

“Our kids did a great job executing the plan on defense again, trying to frustrate them by taking some shots they didn’t want to take,” he said. “They buy into whatever we tell them.”

After a low-scoring start, the Elks (15-9) built a 20-11 halftime lead. Bella Keeton made two 3-pointers in the second quarter and scored nine of her game-high 13 points in the first half. She scored 10 in the first half against Sidney. Springfield (13-11) never made a second-half run, and Leona Ciarlariello sparked the third quarter with nine of her 11 points.

Keeton and Ciarlariello’s bursts were needed because the Elks made only 17 of 34 free throws, giving the Wildcats opportunities to get close. But the Elks’ defense and their rebounding were solid start to finish.

Now it’s the Elks who are on a run and playing better than they did for most of the season. They’ve won four of the their last five games.

“Right now it’s how hard they practice,” Priefer said. “Every day, all 13 of them come in and bust their tails from the kids that don’t even get in or dress to the kids that lead us in scoring.”

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