CHILLICOTHE – Unbeaten Huntington welcomed unbeaten Unioto for a key, early-season Scioto Valley Conference showdown. It was a tight tussle for much of three-and-a-half quarters when Unioto appeared to have things under control, but two-time SVC Player of the Year Lydia Bridenbaugh had other ideas.
Down 41-33 with just under four-minutes remaining, Bridenbaugh dialed up two deep three-pointers, including the game-winner with 7.3 seconds remaining to lift Huntington to a 42-41 win.
“We wanted to go for the win,” said Lydia when asked about the last offensive possession. “We were trying to run a play off a double screen for a three-point shot, but it just wasn’t there. We were starting to run out of time and Paige (Milner) set a nice screen, and I was able to get some space and get the shot up.”
A very physical first quarter that ended in a tie at 11 produced plenty of fireworks including early foul trouble for Unioto’s outstanding center Mackenzie Arledge. With the 6-0 freshman forced to the bench, Unioto turned to its talented backcourt of Shiann Ray and Chloe Cottrell. Huntington countered with some production from its role players getting key buckets from Stephanie Wright and Madison Vickers. The second quarter saw four ties and eight lead changes and ended in a 25-23 Unioto halftime advantage thanks to a put back basket by Janae Driggs.
The third quarter marked the return of Arledge to the Unioto lineup and the diaper dandy produced immediately scoring on the first two possessions of period number three. On the defensive end, Unioto started to swarm Bridenbaugh on the block giving the Huntington star very few touches. This strategy did hold Bridenbaugh in check; however, did make for some foul difficulty including third fouls for both Ray and Arledge and it had Huntington shooting the bonus entering the final quarter.
“We definitely wanted to come out in the second half and get the ball inside,” said Unioto head coach Cyndy Driggs. “We did a nice job of building a lead, but we just didn’t finish. Our team is young and they haven’t really been in a game like that yet. Hopefully we will learn from it and execute better the next time we are faced with a similar situation.”
Huntington, which spent the first 12 minutes of the second half struggling for a field goal, took advantage of the bonus finding ways for Bridenbaugh and Jess Fraley to get to the charity stripe. As the game reached the four minutes mark in the fourth quarter it looked as if Arledge had sealed the deal when she scored on back-to-back possessions to put Unioto up eight.
Reaching near desperation, Huntington scrapped the idea of Bridenbaugh working down on the block and brought the 5-10 versatile talent back out top. Bridenbaugh first connected on a deep three to trim the lead to 41-36. After Unioto failed to score, Huntington received a huge lift from Paige Milner. Milner, a sophomore guard that splits time between the junior varsity and the varsity squad, knocked down a triple from the top of the key making the score 41-39 to set up Bridenbaugh’s late heroics. The shot from Milner was a big lift for a Huntington team that was playing Saturday without starting guard Bridgett Neighbors who is out for the next month with an injured hand.
“Paige is a kid that has a great attitude and works really hard,” said Huntington coach Steve Bridenbaugh. “She really stepped up with Bridgett not able to play. As for Lydia’s shot, she is a player who wants the ball in those late game situations. She has worked really hard in the last year to extend her range and today was an example where that hard work has paid off.”
Bridenbaugh ended with a game-high 25 points with five steals and three rebounds. Jess Fraley added eight points and six rebounds. The Lady Shermans were led by Ray and Arledge who each scored in double-figures with 11 and 10, respectively.
The loss drops Unioto to 6-1 overall and 4-1 in the SVC while Huntington remains unbeaten at 7-0 overall and 5-0 in the SVC. Both teams return to action on Thursday night when Huntington travels to Frankfort for a key league game against Adena while Unioto travels to Paint Valley.
The rest of the SVC action took place Saturday evening with Paint Valley beating Zane Trace 53-48 in spite of 25 points from Hannah Janes, Westfall beat Southeastern in overtime 59-57 despite 30 points from Britiny Leeson, and Adena beat Piketon 53-38.
In other girls’ action from around the southeast, it was Chillicothe staying unbeaten with a 62-45 win over Gallia Academy, and Chillicothe’s boys won for the second straight night with a comfortable 68-42 win at Wheelersburg thanks to 30 points from Anthony Hitchens.
Other boys’ action included Eastern Brown beating Southeastern 68-44 in a game played at Southern State University. Washington Court House beat fellow Fayette County rival Miami Trace 57-39 and in the battle of Highland County it was Greenfield McClain remaining perfect with a 54-50 win over Hillsboro.