By Garth Shanklin
The Bethel-Tate Lady Tigers found themselves in a familiar position on Saturday, Feb. 25. For the second straight season, the Lady Tigers were battling at Wilmington High School with a sectional tournament title on the line. For the second straight season, Bethel-Tate has a banner to update.
The Lady Tigers defeated Purcell Marian 56-52 on Saturday, clinching their second straight sectional championship.
“It feels really good,” Bethel-Tate head coach Dave Fallis said. “It’s a little surreal right now. The girls played a great game, they left it all on the court. We came out ready, full of energy and we executed our game plan. That gave us a cushion. We knew they’d probably make a run in the second half, which they did, and we were able to survive. It’s all about survive and advance at this point, and we did, which was fantastic. I couldn’t be more proud of these girls.”
“Survive” is an apt description of the second half. In the first half, Bethel-Tate jumped ahead to a 16-7 lead at the end of the first period. By halftime, the Lady Tigers built the lead to 29-17.
After Reagan Leonard connected on a three-pointer to open the third quarter, the Lady Tigers found themselves leading 32-17.
Purcell Marian began chipping their way back into the game. By the end of the third period, the Lady Tigers’ lead was down to just nine points. Bethel-Tate went on a quick 5-0 run early in the fourth quarter to push the lead back to 13, but Purcell went on a 15-4 run to cut the lead down to just two points with 1:41 remaining.
Luckily for Bethel-Tate, Allison Parks spent most of the fourth quarter on fire from the field. The Tigers scored 17 points in the period. Jenna Carter connected on a free-throw with 7:11 left in the period. Reagan Leonard scored on a two-point basket with 5:07 left in the game. The remaining 14 Lady Tiger points were all scored by Allison Parks, including the team’s final 10 points of the game. Parks finished as the Lady Tigers’ leading scorer, tallying 29 points.
“She was on fire,” Fallis said. “She’s got a bad ankle. She was a trooper out there today. She’s our main point guard, she handles the ball and shoots free-throws. She did it all. She’s a special girl, I love her to death.”
Leonard scored 15 for the Lady Tigers, who relied upon smart decision making on offense to score their points.
“Be smart, get organized,”Fallis said. “Take smart shots, make smart, strong passes and don’t force anything. Ninety percent of the time, that’s what we did. A couple of times we made mistakes, but that’s to be expected when you play a team like Purcell that’s a pressure-type defense. Our girls responded, we didn’t fold to the pressure, and now we’re going back to Springfield.”
Defensively, the Lady Tigers were able to key in on one player: Pearl Dean. Dean is 6 feet 4 inches tall, and she entered play averaging roughly 15 points and nine rebounds per game for the Lady Cavaliers. She scored two points against the Lady Tigers, both of which came in the first quarter.
“I think that’s what I’m most proud of with this group,” Fallis said. “We spent two days working on a defense to stop [Dean], she scored two points. That’s pretty doggone good. That’s a smart group of girls that payed attention in practice and came out here and executed. They wanted to go back to Springfield and you can tell by the way they played the game today.”
The Lady Tigers face off against Versailles at 11 a.m. on Saturday, March 4 at Springfield High School. Versailles finished the regular season in sixth place in the Associated Press Ohio Division III poll. Bethel-Tate won a district championship at that same venue last season by defeating Miami East 44-39.