ZANESVILLE – Improved patience and shot selection in the second half was the right combination for the Mifflin Lady Punchers Wednesday evening in a 36-24 win over the Circleville Lady Tigers at Zanesville High School.
“Once we started to get the ball under control, we began to get the right people in the right spots for good scoring opportunities,” Mifflin coach Troy Taylor said. “In the first half, we weren’t ready to shoot when we took shots. We didn’t have our feet set right. Circleville did a good job defensively with their man to man and man zone defenses.”
Mifflin (20-4) advances to the Division II regional championship game to face West Holmes, which defeated Maysville 53-31, Friday at 7:30 p.m.
Amber Arter posted a game-high 16 points for Mifflin and Jalyssa Campbell added 13 points. Sataria Lawhorn chipped in eight rebounds.
Behind 12 points from Casse Mogan in the first half and a jumper at the buzzer from Kaitlin Graham, the Lady Tigers grabbed a 20-16 lead at halftime.
“In the first half, we took the ball right at them and were able to get some nice shots,” Circleville coach Steve Kalinoski said. “We only shot two of eight from the free throw line in the first half, however, and we left some points there that we needed to build a bigger lead.”
Circleville expanded expanded its lead to 22-16 in the first minute of the second half on a layup from Mogan.
“Circleville did a good job of getting shots inside the three-second area in the first half,” Taylor said. “They hit like 70 percent of their shots there in the first half, and (Mogan) did a great job of creating shots and getting into the lane. She’s a very good basketball player.”
The basket turned out to be the last for the Lady Tigers in the game as Circleville shot one of 20 from the field in the second half.
The last points for Circleville on the evening came two minutes later with two free throws from Graham at the 5:19 mark.
“They switched their defense to a zone in the second half and they deserve a lot of credit to holding us to four points,” Kalinoski said. “They switched it up to something we weren’t prepared for and made us take some shots we didn’t want to.”
How Circleville finished the Division II regional semifinal was how Mifflin began the evening. The Lady Punchers shot only six of 32 from the field in the first and and two of 19 from three-point land.
Mifflin began to look inside for shots in the third period as Arter scored on a layup and two free throws, and Alisa Marshall added a jumper with 1:35 left in the third to tie the game at 24-24 going into the final period.
After outscoring Circleville 8-4 in the third period, Mifflin delivered the knockout punch with an 11-0 fourth quarter.
A layup by Janae Johnson and a shot off the glass from Arter allowed Mifflin to take a 28-24 lead with five minutes remaining.
“In the second half, we started to do what they (Circleville) did in the first half,” Taylor said. “We were able to get shots in the three-second area and make some of them. We were also able to get to the foul line and make some shots from there.”
After a missed shot from Circleville, Mifflin then began to stall the ball with 4:28 left. Circleville caught Marshall in the corner with a double team. As Marshall tried to escape, an elbow hit the mouth of Mogan, causing a crushing blow with 3:21 remaining. The Circleville senior lost four teeth and had to be taken to a Zanesville dentist office for treatment, according to Kalinoski.
“The play was deep in the corner and I couldn’t see it that well through all of the players,” Taylor said. “Our player was trapped and she tried to stand up, step forward and lower her face. When I played at Ohio State, I had two of my front teeth knocked out in a similiar fashion.
“I heard some Circleville fans in the stands yelling about it, and their trainer came to talk to me about what happened. That kind of hurt. I don’t teach that kind of basketball where we’d intentionally do something like that. It was very unfortunate what happened to her (Mogan), and I wish we could go back and change it so that didn’t happen. I don’t teach that type of basketball. It wasn’t intentional, but I’m going to chew out the player and make sure we try to avoid something like that happening.”
Losing Mogan, Circleville’s leading scorer, was a blow to any potential Lady Tigers comeback. Circleville shot zero of seven in the fourth period with four turnovers.
Mifflin continued its stall game down the stretch, forcing Circleville to foul and hitting eight of 10 free throws in the final 1:47 – four each coming from Arter and Campbell.
The Lady Punchers finished the second half shooting five of 12.
Mogan led Circleville with 14 points and nine rebounds, while Graham had six points and nine rebounds.
Circleville finishes the season at 22-3 and loses four seniors to graduation – Mogan, Graham, Liz Scudder and Rachael Spangler. The seniors have been a part of three Mid-State League championships and two Southeast District crowns.
“It was terrible to see that happen to Casse. She is such a competitior and has went down dozens of times over the last four years but got back up,” Kalinoski said. “She lost four teeth and was bleeding. It’s tough to see her go out like this.
“We have a great group of seniors that we’re going to miss very much. They’ve done so much for our program with the league and district titles, and a whole lot of wins. They mean a lot to us, and it’s just tough to see it end like this.”