BEAVERCREEK — It all came down to which team could handle the pressure Saturday when the Wayne girls basketball team faced Beavercreek for a rematch between the Central Division rivals in a key Greater Western Ohio Conference game.
The hostile environs at Beavercreek coupled with an inability to score effectively against the zone defense had Wayne struggling early. The Beavers jumped out to a 10-3 lead and led 29-20 at halftime, thanks in part to Shai McGruder having to ride the Wayne bench a large portion of the first half after getting into foul trouble.
McGruder was held scoreless in the first half but came back to score 11 third quarter points and 15 overall to help lead Wayne to a 53-52 overtime victory. McGruder realized she had to step up in the second half.
“When we were in the locker room we said we were going to take this game and that this game was ours, so when we came out we stuck with that mentality no matter what,” McGruder said. “After all of the mistakes we made in the first half we just fixed them in the second half. Since the first half didn’t go as well and I had to sit, I did take it personally. It was my job as a leader to lead the team and to be sitting the whole first half, that wasn’t really showing that I was a leader.”
She accounted for 11 of Wayne’s 16 third quarter points and had her team knocking on the door. Beavercreek held a 37-36 advantage entering the final eight minutes of play. McGruder scored the opening basket of the fourth quarter to put Wayne on top 38-37 and Destiny Bohanon scored a layup off a Beavercreek turnover to give Wayne a three point advantage.
McGruder blocked a 3-point attempt in the left corner and after a missed layup by the Beavers late in the quarter scored inside the paint to put Wayne up 44-41 with 2:16 remaining.
Clinging to a one point lead with 34 seconds left Wayne got called for traveling and Beavercreek worked the ball around trying to set up a shot. Beavercreek called a timeout with 17 seconds left, but that decision almost proved fatal. The Beavers had trouble in bounding the ball and an ill-advised last second inbounds pass wound up getting pounced on by Wayne freshman center Mali Morgan-Elliott. She drew a foul while lying on the court with possession of the ball and sank the front end of a one-and-one to give Wayne a 46-44 lead with 10 seconds remaining.
Beavercreek stormed down the floor and 6-foot-2 senior center Alexa Low got off a shot under the basket from the right side just before the buzzer to score and send the game into overtime.
In overtime Morgan-Elliott grabbed a huge offensive rebound to score and Maya Dunson scored off a steal to put Wayne up 50-46. Jaelyn Bean drew a foul and sank one of two free throws to pull Beavercreek to within three. Both teams misfired on their next possessions before Keaira Youngblood came up with a steal to give the Beavers possession. Low scored inside the paint to cut Wayne’s lead to 50-49. Braelyn Bean grabbed onto the ball to force a jump call with possession awarded to Beavercreek with 20 seconds left.
The pressure got to Beavercreek at that point. Instead of taking their time to set up a potential game-winning shot, the Beavers forced a pass to the right baseline that sailed out of bounds. Olivia Trice was immediately fouled on the ensuing possession and knocked down a free throw. One her second shot all of her teammates retreated to play defense leaving Trice alone at the foul line with four defenders waiting to snare the rebound if she missed. Trice did miss her second shot but incredibly came up with the rebound.
Two Beavercreek players tried to rip the ball away but Trice held on. The jump ball resulted in Wayne retaining possession. Bohanon took the in-bounds pass and was fouled, went to the line and sank both shots to put the game out of reach at 53-49. Youngblood nailed a 3-pointer as time expired to make the final 53-52.
Beavercreek Coach Ed Zink was baffled by his team’s inability to maintain its composure when it counted.
“We called timeout to set up a play and we can’t get the ball in,” Zink said. “One time we didn’t get it in, then the next time, for whatever reason, we tried to rush down the floor and we throw the ball out of bounds. Sometimes we just don’t take care of the basketball. That last free throw we had four kids on the line, they have nobody and the shooter gets the rebound! At that point in time that should be the most important thing, to make sure we get the rebound if they miss it. We tied her up but obviously the ball was in their possession so then we had to foul them again and they hit both free throws.”
Despite his frustration Zink was proud of his team’s performance.
“I can’t fault our kids,” he added. “I thought both teams played extremely hard. If you didn’t care who won, it was a great game to watch.”
Wayne improved to 17-1 overall and 6-0 in division play while Beavercreek fell to 13-5 and 4-2.
When asked if she felt if her team handled the intense pressure in the fourth quarter and overtime period better than Beavercreek, Wayne Coach Sonya Miller said her team had to maintain its composure.
“Well you know we have to be composed in a game like this,” she said. “This is a well-coached team here at Beavercreek. We came in aware of that regardless of what their record is, which is pretty darn good. We knew we had to match their intensity on their court. We got into a little foul trouble in the first half. Obviously having to sit McGruder doesn’t help. The first two minutes of the game without your big girl in the paint obviously is going to hurt you. Down nine at half we still felt good about the game.”
Miller was pleased with how McGruder was able to come back to lead the team in the second half.
“Sitting like that I was a little concerned with her being able to get into rhythm, but don’t anybody ever question Shai being able to get into rhythm,” Miller added. “Her dominance in the paint obviously on the boards allowed us to get back into this game.”
Morgan-Elliott’s big rebound for a bucket in overtime did not go unnoticed by her coach.
“She is just clutch for us,” Miller noted. “A big girl like that, she has been very consistent being on the boards and plays very physical, so a lot of times there is a mismatch in our favor that we can always expose. But lookout over the next couple of years with her being a freshman, we are just going to be pretty dominant around that rim.”
The Lady Warriors play at Northmont on Wednesday at 7:30 p.m.
WAY 07 20 36 46 53 – 53
BEA 10 29 37 46 52 – 52
Wayne: Mali Morgan-Elliott 4, Shaneice Jones 6, Destiny Bohanon 10, Olivia Trice 9, Shai McGruder 15, Maya Dunson 9. Totals: 16-12-53.
Beavercreek: Kayla Shields 8, Braelyn Bean 6, Keaira Youngblood 14, Jaelyn Bean 3, Cari Dilsavor 3, Alexa Low 12, Lexi Moore 6. Totals: 20-4-52.
3-point goals: Wayne 5 (Jones 2, Trice 2, Dunson); Beavercreek 6 (Youngblood 3, B. Bean 2, Dilsavor)
Records: Wayne 17-1 (6-0), Beavercreek 13-5 (4-2).
Reach Ron Nunnari at 684-9124, via email Rnunnari@civitasmedia.com or on Twitter @Englewood_Ind