Cincinnati Christian’s Grace Edmonston prepares to put up a foul shot Thursday night during a Division IV sectional game against South Charleston Southeastern at Monroe. RICK CASSANO/STAFF

Prep girls basketball: CCS falters down the stretch, ousted from sectional

The Cougars rallied from a 10-point deficit to take the lead in the fourth quarter, but South Charleston Southeastern responded and collected a 45-39 victory in a Division IV sectional semifinal at Monroe.

“We ran out of steam,” said CCS coach Paul Owens, whose crew finished 7-16. “We were competing. We tried. I felt like we were getting the better looks at the basket. We just couldn’t make shots.”

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Aaliyah Johnson led the third-seeded Cougars with 19 points and seven rebounds, while Grace Edmonston had 9 points and nine rebounds.

Edmonston and fellow senior Hannah Randall both fouled out in the last 86 seconds and could only watch the ending as Cincinnati Christian took a first-game exit after reaching the district finals a year ago.

“This team has grown so much since the first game,” said Edmonston, who unsuccessfully tried to stop the flow of tears. “I thought my team did really well. I’m really proud of how we fought through this game. They had a lot of size on their team. It was tough for us because we don’t have that many very large, very tall girls.”

Southeastern, the No. 7 seed, was generally effective in taking advantage of that size in halfcourt sets. The Trojans (7-16) didn’t always react to defensive pressure in a positive way and quadrupled the Cougars 20-5 in turnovers, yet still managed to survive and advance.

Leslie Flores led Southeastern with 17 points and 13 rebounds, and Trinity Cline added 10 points and 10 boards. Avery Shepherd and Raelyn Severt chipped in 8 points apiece.

“They just kind of gutted it out,” Trojans coach Bob Wehner said. “We’ve had a lot of tough losses this year, and they decided they didn’t want to lose this one. I think that was the biggest part of it.”

Southeastern took a 25-15 lead early in the third quarter before its offense skidded to a halt. The Trojans were scoreless for nearly seven minutes, allowing Cincinnati Christian to move ahead twice (27-25 and 29-27).

The Cougars then went dry offensively for almost four minutes. Southeastern created some separation with a 10-point run and led by at least 5 points the rest of the night.

Cincinnati Christian’s Aaliyah Johnson (5, black jersey) defends South Charleston Southeastern’s Leslie Flores (5) during Thursday night’s Division IV sectional game at Monroe. RICK CASSANO/STAFF

“We finally had to slow up and get the ball in the halfcourt. We were getting a little too rushed there for a while,” Wehner said. “I think the key was our offensive rebounds. That made a big difference in the game.”

“I think they made some shots that they typically don’t make,” Owens said. “In girls basketball, if the teams are relatively comparable, it comes down to making shots.”

Johnson, a freshman guard, tallied 15 points after halftime for CCS, which made 14 of 25 free throws. Owens said the 11 misses were key, but he also felt the Cougars could’ve gone to the line more.

“I thought there were some very difficult calls,” Owens said. “I guess I don’t know the game. I’ve been watching basketball since 1976 and don’t know what a foul is, I guess.”

South Charleston Southeastern’s Payton Thompson (12) keeps a close eye on Cincinnati Christian’s Aaliyah Johnson (5) during Thursday night’s Division IV sectional game at Monroe. RICK CASSANO/STAFF

Southeastern will return to Monroe on Monday for a 7:30 p.m. sectional final against No. 2 Cedarville (19-5), which blitzed the Trojans twice (65-41 on Dec. 9 and 68-39 on Feb. 1) during the Ohio Heritage Conference South Division campaign.

Cincinnati Christian’s four seniors included Katie Snyder and Daja Thacker. Sophomore Tori Byndon, the Cougars’ defensive stopper, played the last two games of the season after suffering a preseason knee injury.

“I guess I’d say the season was OK,” Owens said. “We competed more frequently than we did last year, which we had marked as something we obviously wanted to do. I thought we would win a few more games, but I knew that we had a tough schedule for a school our size. There were certain games that were pretty much going to be losses before the season started.”

Cincinnati Christian’s Tori Byndon (23) applies defensive pressure to South Charleston Southeastern’s Leslie Flores (5) during Thursday night’s Division IV sectional game at Monroe. RICK CASSANO/STAFF

Edmonston said she plans to play in college, but hasn’t yet made a commitment. She will keep a close eye on the Cougars no matter where she’s at.

“I expect to come back here forever and watch them win in the tournament,” Edmonston said.

Southeastern 10-9-6-20—45

Cincinnati Christian 8-6-11-14—39

SOUTHEASTERN (7-16): Avery Shepherd 3 1 8, Leslie Flores 6 4 17, Trinity Cline 5 0 10, Raelyn Severt 3 2 8, Courtney Rice 1 0 2. Totals: 18-7-45

CINCINNATI CHRISTIAN (7-16): Aaliyah Johnson 6 4 19, Hannah Randall 1 1 3, Katie Snyder 1 0 2, Grace Edmonston 2 5 9, Briahna Bush 0 4 4, Tori Byndon 1 0 2. Totals: 11-14-39

3-pointers: S 2 (Shepherd, Flores), C 3 (Johnson 3)

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