By Bryant Billing
SIDNEY — Cameo Wilson has overcome slow starts before and wasn’t worried when Russia trailed Mississinawa Valley in a Division IV sectional semifinal on Tuesday at Sidney.
Wilson scored 16 of her game-high 22 points in the first half to help the Raiders pull out to a 77-23 win over Mississinawa Valley. The win puts Russia in its second consecutive sectional final on Saturday against Botkins, which beat Riverside 30-28 in the other semifinal on Tuesday at Sidney.
Russia left Mississinawa Valley open on the wing often early on. The Blackhawks made them pay by hitting two 3-pointers to take a 6-5 lead.
After Russia coach Andy Timmerman called a timeout, the game got out of hand in a hurry. The Raiders led 18-8 by the end of the first quarter and 41-13 at halftime.
“We had a very, very slow start. Just didn’t come out with any energy at all,” Timmerman said. “That started on the defensive end, and that led to our offense. We gave up so many open looks, probably more than we have all year. They could have easily scored 20 points in that first quarter.
“Finally, we woke up and started communicating a little bit better, and defensively that’s what drove the game.”
Wilson, a senior guard, was a big part in the Raiders’ turnaround. She scored six points in the last four minutes of the first to help Russia finish on a 13-2 run.
Wilson then added a basket to open the second quarter, and Whitney Pleiman soon followed with a 3-pointer. Jenna Cordonnier added a basket to push the Raiders’ lead to 25-8 and cap off a 7-0 run to start the second.
“We started communicating on defense and started being more aggressive on offense, and I think that just happened to work for us,” Wilson said.
Wilson, who was named honorable mention all-Shelby County Athletic League, missed the first few weeks of the season after suffering an ankle injury in early November during Russia’s last volleyball game. Timmerman said Wilson has worked extremely hard in practice to be playing at the level she’s been playing at.
Wilson said sitting on the bench through the first few weeks motivated her to get into playing shape quickly.
“It was difficult, trying to work back into it,” Wilson said. “It was a struggle. I wanted to get on the floor right away, but I had to watch for the first couple of weeks, just seeing them play. It made me work harder to get back.”
The Raiders pushed their lead to 35 points early in the third quarter, and the rest of the second half was played with a running clock. It’s the first season of a new OHSAA rule which calls for running clocks in all tournament games once the scoring difference reaches 35 points.
Cordonnier finished with 14 points while Ashely Scott scored 11 and Laurissa Poling scored nine. Six other players scored for the Raiders, which made 30 field goals and 13-of-15 free-throw attempts.
Mississinawa Valley finishes the season 0-23. The Blackhawks were led by Leah Scholl, who had six points.
Russia (19-5) advances to face Botkins in a sectional final on Saturday at Sidney. The Raiders, which are the sectional’s No. 2 seed, beat Botkins by 13 and 28 points in two regular season SCAL matchups.
“We can’t have a slow start against them,” Timmerman said. “If we have a slow start, it’s going to be an uphill battle the rest of the game.”