By Josh Brown
TROTWOOD — In the end, in a game full of back-and-forth action and runs by both teams, Miami East girls basketball coach Bruce Vanover knew exactly which one hurt his Vikings the most.
“Really, if I’m going to tell you the difference in the game, it was the first three minutes of the third quarter,” he said. “We didn’t come out and play with the same intensity, and we allowed them to to get seven quick points.”
Those seven quick points turned into an 11-0 run to begin the second half by second-seeded Waynesville, erasing the seven-point halftime lead that No. 4 Miami East had built and putting the Spartans back in control. And even though the Vikings were able to battle back and even take the lead briefly with 5:05 remaining in the game, Waynesville was able to regain the edge and hit its free throws in the fourth to ice a 48-40 victory in a Division III sectional semifinal matchup Wednesday night at Trotwood High School.
Waynesville (22-1) — which finished the season as the No. 8 ranked team in the state in D-III — advances to face division rival Milton-Union in the sectional final Tuesday at Trotwood, while Miami East’s season ends at 19-5.
“We’re 19-5 on the year, and we had a great year,” Vanover said. “We won a league title … and we just fell short tonight. But that’s why we play the game, and give them credit. They’re a solid, fundamental team, and they came out on top tonight.”
And for the Spartans, Marcella Sizer’s second-half performance made the difference.
The Vikings held Sizer to only four first-half points, but the Waynesville junior scored six during her team’s 11-0 run to kick off the third quarter, turning a 26-19 halftime deficit into a 30-26 Spartan lead. She finished with a team-high 16 points and added 12 rebounds and four steals.
“She (Sizer) had six quick ones there in that third quarter, and that was just too much for us to overcome,” Vanover said.
And from there, Waynesville won the game from the free throw line, going 7 for 9 in the first three quarters and then 9 for 16 in the fourth to finish 16 for 25 (64 percent), while the Vikings struggled to get there all night and struggled even more once there, going 2 for 6 (33 percent).
“We get outscored 14-5 in the third, but it’s still a two-point game (at 33-31 Waynesville),” Vanover said. “For us to get outscored like that, we still battled back and even took the lead again. We just let them shoot too many free throws.
“Sizer, Rachel Murray and Aubrey Rains were their scorers, and they put up 40 of their 48. We knew that going in, and we didn’t hold them down. Sizer had a really good night against us.”
Rains finished with 13 points and five rebounds, going a perfect 8 for 8 from the free throw line — including 4 for 4 in the game’s final minute. Murray added nine points and five rebounds, Lynzie Hartshorn had seven points and Taylor Ritter had three points and six rebounds.
Still, the Vikings were in the game the whole way, with the matchup featuring five lead changes and seven ties. And with the score tied at 17-17 in the second quarter, they had the first real run by either team, finishing the first half on a 9-2 run to take that 26-19 lead. Morgan Haney drove and kicked out to Camryn Miller for a 3 to start the run, then she hit a pair of layups herself and, after a late Waynesville turnover, Haley Howard scored on an in-bounds play at the buzzer to put the Vikings up by seven.
But Rains hit a 3 to open the third, Ritter scored on a drive and then Sizer intercepted to passes on the perimeter and took them in for easy transition layups to make it 28-26 Waynesville and force a Viking timeout with 5:39 left in the quarter. But Sizer scored again to cap off the 11-0 run before Camryn Miller hit another 3 to end the run and get the Vikings back to within one. A Haney jumper gave East the lead at 31-30, but a drive and a free throw by Murray gave the Spartans a 33-31 lead heading into the final quarter.
Haney gave the Vikings a 35-33 lead early in the fourth quarter with a layup, and then she broke a tie by hitting 1 of 2 free throws to put East up 36-35 with 5:05 to play. But that would be the Vikings’ last lead of the game, as Sizer scored in the paint on the other end and the Spartans built a 39-36 lead with a pair of free throws. Haney hit a floater to cut the lead to one, but Sizer scored again, and another free throw made it 42-38 with 1:10 to play.
Haney hit one final jumper to make it 42-40 with 58 seconds remaining, but with the Vikings forced to foul to get the ball back, she committed her fourth foul with 48.9 seconds left — and Rains sank a pair to put it out of reach. A pair of Viking turnovers and two Waynesville free throws later, it was a six-point game, and another costly turnover with 22 seconds left led to Haney fouling out and Rains hitting two more free throws to end it.
“They’re the No. 8-ranked team in the state, they’re the No. 2 seed, and we played with them,” Vanover said. “It wasn’t that we couldn’t play with them. We just didn’t make shots when we needed to. We didn’t do a good job of coming out in the second half, and turnovers got us late. We didn’t have many on the night — our goal is to have less than 14 because we want to play at a higher pace. We didn’t turn it over more than we anticipated — it’s just that they weren’t timely, and once it became a game of possessions, we didn’t do a good job of taking care of the ball.”
Haney, a junior, finished with a game-high 22 points and added four rebounds and five assists, but the support just wasn’t there this time. Camryn Miller added six points, Howard had four points and a team-high 12 rebounds, Bailey Miller scored three points, Maria Staton and Mikayla Schaffner each had two and Kaitlyn Mack scored one.
“We lost five games this yea. We lost to West Liberty in overtime by seven, we lost this one by eight, we lost to Fort Loramie by 10 and Tippecanoe by 10,” Vanover said. “I mean, those are pretty good teams to lose to. Now we’re just continuing to work and get our program to where we win those games and finish. Like I told the girls, we would have had to beat Waynesville in the finals or tonight. We had to beat them somewhere. We didn’t get it done, but we’re going to go right back to work and get ready for next year — and hopefully be right back in this same situation.”
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.