By Chris Chaney
The beauty of high school basketball is that hope springs eternal each February as the regular season wraps up and teams begin with a clean slate in the sectional tournament.
And while teams have a new life in the post season, it could be experiences from that previous life that lead teams to success in the sectional tournament.
The format of the sectional tournament lends itself to teams facing unfamiliar opponents in the early rounds; however, a pair of Southern Buckeye Conference schools highlights the second-round action as New Richmond and Bethel-Tate face off on Thursday, Feb. 21 with a trip to the sectional final on the line.
“We’re pretty excited about things,” Bethel head coach Dave Fallis said. “We played some pretty good defense against Indian Hill (in the first round) only giving up 34 points, so that’s what kept us in that game. Now we get to face New Richmond for the third time this year and 6-foot-5 Josie Buckingham, but we’ll for her.”
The Lady Lions and Lady Tigers have met twice previously splitting the regular-season series, with both teams winning on their home court, but Fallis is expressed his concern with the floor the two will be meeting on come Thursday night.
“We’re successful on offense when we rebound, run the court and score in transition,” Fallis said. “We can’t do that the entire game though, because at Withrow, it’s a 94-foot court, which is 10 feet longer (than what we’re used to). We only have eight kids in the rotation, so we’re going to have to pick and choose when we run.”
Aside from the Lady Tigers’ lack of depth, they don’t boast anyone near the size of New Richmond’s Buckingham, who towers over Bethel’s tallest player, 5-foot-9 Julia Jenike.
Fallis, however, plans to stick to a principle that he has always preached to slow down the Lady Lions’ University of Minnesota commit.
“From a defensive standpoint, we’ve got to put pressure on their guards,” Fallis explained. “I’ve always believed that the best way to defend the post is to defend the pass into the post. When we beat them at Bethel, we did a lot better with our guard pressure with some half-court trapping that prevented them those easy lobs into Josie down on the block.”
On the flip side, Brad Hatfield, New Richmond’s sixth-year head coach has been pleased with the progress his perimeter players have made.
“We’ve been getting the ball to Josie really well in good position and when we do that she scores it pretty easily,” Hatfield said. “A big reason for that is our freshman point guard (Maren Hance) has come a long way. Between Hance’s development and all-around improvement as a team, we’ve been playing great.”
The Lady Lions and Lady Tigers face off at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday night at Withrow in the second round of the tournament.
Other games: Three teams from Clermont County saw their seasons end abruptly with first-round losses in the sectional tournament. All three Division I teams fell in their opening game of the postseason in unceremonious fashion.
Milford fell to Sycamore 56-24 in the Harrison sectional while Amelia lost to Fairfield, 59-40 and Glen Este fell to Withrow 61-38 in the Lakota East bracket.
Four other teams in Clermont County were scheduled for games after deadline and before publication.
On Tuesday night, Feb. 19, Goshen played Western Brown in the Division II Withrow regional with the winner playing again on Saturday Feb. 23 at 3 p.m.
In Division III, five-seeded Felicity took on fourth-seeded Ripley at 6 p.m. at Wilmington which was followed by Clermont Northeastern going up against top-seeded Georgetown at 7:30 p.m. In that same bracket on Wednesday, Feb. 20, Williamsburg opened their sectional tournament with a game against second-seeded Fayetteville.