By Josh Brown
TROTWOOD — The first two times the Milton-Union girls basketball team faced division rival Waynesville this season, it dropped two highly competitive, close games.
In the battle for the sectional title, things went a bit differently.
Second-seeded Waynesville — which finished the regular season as the No. 8-ranked team in the state in Division III — took control early by hitting three straight first-quarter 3s and shutting the Bulldogs down on the other end, and though the Spartans’ hot hand offensively eventually cooled off, their defense never did in a 59-29 victory over 10th-seeded Milton-Union in the Division III sectional championship game Tuesday night at Trotwood High School.
And while Waynesville (23-1) moves on to face Madeira in Saturday’s district final, the Bulldogs (11-13) were left to consider what had changed since those first two meetings — a 50-46 overtime loss at Waynesville on Jan. 6 and a 43-40 loss at home on Jan. 27.
Milton-Union coach Katie Roose knew exactly what that difference was.
“Honestly, I think it was their defense,” she said. “The first couple times we played them, I think they relied solely on the thought that they were going to outscore us. But their defense has improved so much since we played them at the end of January. They were just so intense and in your face that I think it caught our girls off guard and kind of overwhelmed them.”
An early 3 by Aubrey Rains after a steal gave the Spartans an early 5-0 lead before Beyonce Bobbitt rattled home a jumper to get the Bulldogs on the board. But Rains answered with another 3 and — after Milton-Union couldn’t put home three straight chances in the paint on one possession — Rains drilled another from long range to make it an 11-2 game and force a Bulldog timeout with 5:43 left in the opening quarter. That did little to slow the Spartans, though, as a total of six Bulldog turnovers in the first eight minutes were all cashed in, and a steal-and-layup by Bulldog junior Kristen Dickison at the buzzer cut Waynesville’s lead to 20-6 after one.
“Them knocking down those 3s early, that’s something they’d struggled with the previous two times we played them,” Roose said. “They struggled to knock down shots early in those games, but tonight they came out firing and were able to knock them down, and it created a lot of momentum for them, while we just weren’t able to buy a bucket.”
After the scoring explosion to open the game, Waynesville settled down, shooting 40 percent for the game by going 20 for 50 from the field, but the Spartan defense held the Bulldogs to a total of eight field goals in the game as Milton-Union was outscored 12-7 in the second quarter and trailed 32-13 at halftime. Waynesville’s Marcella Sizer took control of the boards in the second half, collecting six rebounds in the third quarter alone as the Spartans took a 45-19 lead into the fourth quarter and put the game away from there.
Sizer finished with 15 points and 10 rebounds, Rachel Murray added 15 points and four assists and Rains scored 14 points to lead Waynesville. Carli Brown and Lynzie Hartshorn each scored four, Taylor Ritter added three and Kenzie Purkey and Leianna Flowers both scored two.
Dickison matched the game-high total and led the Bulldogs with 15 points. Bobbitt added seven, Morgan Nemeth scored three, Olivia Brown scored two and Rachel Thompson scored one.
“I was more disappointed in just the outcome than our effort,” Roose said. “Like I said, their defense was really good tonight. We have been one of the better teams in our league on defense, and we still held them to just their average. Despite the 30-point loss, I’m still proud of my girls in terms of, as bad as it seemed, we still didn’t let them score more than their average.”
And even though it was the last game for seniors Bobbitt, Nemeth and Abby Hissong, they were still able to put their mark on the Milton-Union program as the team won its first postseason game since 2009 to get to Tuesday’s sectional final.
“That’s something we talked about, especially for our seniors,” Roose said. “They were able to create their own history, winning their first tournament game and the first one in 10 years for our program. I’m so happy for those seniors because of what they’ve meant to this program for the past four years, and it’s just a tribute to their dedication and hard work for them to be able to put their own stamp on their senior season.”
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.
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