The West Jefferson girls basketball team knew exactly what it was going up against when it traveled to Grandview Heights for a Division III Central District tournament game on Wednesday, Feb. 20.
The 11th-seeded Roughriders (14-8) and sixth-seeded Bobcats are both members of the Mid-State League Ohio Division and played each other in a pair of highly competitive games during the regular season.
When two teams know each other as well as these two do, the difference between winning and losing usually comes down to execution. The Bobcats (18-5) were sharper on both ends of the floor and walked away with a 33-23 victory, sending them to a second-round game against No. 4 North Union.
West Jefferson had all types of problems on the offensive end of the floor. The Roughriders prepared for the 2-3 zone they were going to see a lot of, but when the game got underway, the squad often looked lost and routinely took bad shots or turned it over. Coach Tim Converse was left searching for answers.
“I knew coming in we couldn’t turn the ball over and I also knew if we got to the free throw line we were going to have to make a high percentage of them, we just didn’t do either one,” Converse said. “We had a hard time on the offensive end. We just couldn’t get good shots and we just really struggled on that end of the floor.”
West Jeff got off to a good enough start, taking a 10-6 lead early in the second quarter. The visitors had a chance to build on the lead, but Taylor Bowman missed a pair of free throws and momentum seemed to swing instantly in favor of the Bobcats.
Over the next three minutes of game play Grandview went on a 6-0 run to take a 12-10 lead, Bowman had another chance from the charity stripe with less than a minute to play in the half, but again she came away empty. The Bobcats led 12-10 at the break.
“We only gave up (12) points in the first half, the defense wasn’t the problem,” Converse said. “We just couldn’t do anything on offense.”
The home team got some separation in the middle portion of the third quarter when it executed its zone offense to perfection. The Bobcats would flash a player to the middle part of the West Jeff 2-3 zone and then proceeded to knock down jumpers from the free throw line.
Grace Palmer (nine points) hit two of the jumpers and Morgan Taylor hit another.
West Jeff continued to fight and a basket by Bowman and a bucket and a foul by Claire Sterling made it 21-18. But Sterling failed to connect on a free throw which would’ve made it a two-point game. Instead Grandview spurted out to a 26-18 lead after three quarters.
The lead remained right around double digits for most of the fourth quarter. Sterling drilled a three-pointer from the corner in the closing minutes to make it 30-23 but the game would get no closer.
“We thought we could do some things against their zone, but we really didn’t score it from the inside and had a hard time with turnovers,” Converse said. “We talked about this and worked against a zone for quite a while, but we just didn’t get it done.
“If we hit a couple of those shots then it’s a different ball game. We looked confused, we played hard but we made some mistakes which surprised me.”
For the game West Jeff was just 2 of 10 from the free throw line.
“We had a good year, we wanted this game, we came over here but just couldn’t get it done,” the coach said.
Chris Miles can be reached at (740) 852-1616, ext. 18 or via Twitter @MadPressSports.