By Kyle Shaner
The Daily Advocate
TIPP CITY After leading for most of the game Wednesday night, Tri-Village hit some big shots in the game’s final minutes to hold off Mechanicsburg and secure its fourth consecutive appearance in the regional finals.
The Tri-Village girls basketball team never trailed in the regional semifinal against Mechanicsburg, but the game went down to the wire with the Lady Patriots winning 47-44 at Tippecanoe High School. It’s the fourth straight time Tri-Village has advanced to the state’s final eight, and the Patriots now have a chance to play for second consecutive trip to the state final four in Columbus.
“Any time you win a game at this level, it feels great,” Tri-Village girls basketball coach Brad Gray said. “I can’t say that any of them have felt better than this one. This group, I’m just so proud of this group because I don’t know that anybody really thought we’d be here. I think everybody kind of wrote us off after we graduated the stud (2012 Associated Press Division IV girls basketball player of the year Kayla Linkous) that we graduated last year. And to be right back here, I think these kids have been wanting to prove a lot to people, and I think tonight’s win finally does that.”
Tri-Village got on the scoreboard first as Krystal Falknor made a pair of free throws to put Tri-Village up 2-0. Falknor then added two more free throws, and Teha Richards drove to the basket for a field goal to put the Patriots up 6-0.
After being held scoreless for more than four-and-a-half minutes, Mechanicsburg got on the scoreboard to make it 6-2.
After an Ecko Brown basket, the Indians cut the Patriot lead to 9-6 before Shaye Thomas ended the first quarter with a basket to put Tri-Village up 11-6.
In the second quarter Tri-Village held off Mechanicsburg to maintain its lead.
The Indians cut the lead to 11-9 with an early 3-pointer, but Tri-Village responded with baskets from Falknor and Thomas. Mechanicsburg then made a pair of baskets, and Tri-Village once again responded, this time with a Falknor 3-pointer to put Tri-Village up 18-13.
Thomas and Richards both scored in the final minutes of the half as Tri-Village held a 22-18 halftime lead.
Scoring from Richards, Thomas and Brown helped Tri-Village build its lead to a game-high 12 points, 36-24, in the third quarter.
Mechanicsburg tried to stop the Tri-Village momentum with a pair of timeouts in the first five minutes of the third quarter but couldn’t get things turned around. That was until the Indians got a 3-pointer and basket off a steal at the end of the third quarter to cut the Patriot lead to 36-29.
With scoring from Falknor, Richards and Thomas, Tri-Village led 42-32 with just 5:33 left in the game.
Mechanicsburg then went on its best run of the game, outscoring Tri-Village 10-0 in the next two-plus minutes to tie the game at 42-42 with 3:14 remaining, the first tie since 5:18 left in the first quarter.
“Our kids don’t really get rattled,” Gray said. “I think it maybe looked like we were rattled there a little bit, but we’ve been on this stage so many times. The kids that we’re playing, this is all that they’ve known, is being here.”
Tri-Village regained the lead with just 1:48 left on an Ecko Brown basket. Then the Patriots increased their lead to five points as Lexie Bruner made her first points of the night, a 3-pointer from the corner to increase the Tri-Village lead to 47-42 with just 38 seconds left.
“The whole game I was telling her, ‘Lexie, you’re going to hit a huge one for us. I know you’re going to hit one. Quit doubting yourself, believe in yourself,’” Gray said of the basket that proved to be the game-winner. “In the fourth quarter, under a minute to go, the girl picks a great time to stick one. Pick time shot from a kid that hopefully that will just boost her confidence for the next game.”
Mechanicsburg scored to cut the deficit to three points and fouled Tri-Village with just 10.9 seconds left. After a missed free throw, the Indians got the rebound and had a shot to tie the game but came up short to give Tri-Village the regional semifinal win.
“Our kids are composed,” Gray said. “They play the same whether it’s the start of the game or the end of the game. They find a way, they have a will to win, and I love them. I love having the kids I’ve got.”
Thomas led Tri-Village with 13 points in the victory. Also for the Patriots, Falknor scored 11, Brown scored 10, Richards scored 10, and Bruner scored three as the Patriot starters accounted for all 47 of their points.
The Mechanicsburg starters also scored all of the Indians’ points, led by Jamie Dodane’s game-high 17. Also for Mechanicsburg, Brooke Dodane scored nine, Hayley Cochran scored six, Jordan Hux scored six, and Courtney Romero scored six.
Tri-Village will play in the regional final with a spot at state on the line at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Tippecanoe High School. The Patriots will play the winner of Fort Loramie against Marion Local, who will face off at 7 p.m. tonight in the region’s other semifinal game.
“We’ve got two days to get ready for either Loramie or Marion, whichever one it is,” Gray said. “Our kids are real familiar with Loramie. I’m going to be honest, we’re not real familiar with Marion. But we’ll be here tomorrow night watching, and if Marion pulls it out, then we’ll have enough information as we need to have on them to get ready to go for Saturday. But right now, we don’t care who we play; we’re just happy to be one of the two teams that are vying to go to Columbus.”
Score By Quarters:
Tri-Village........11...11...14...11 - 47
Mechanicsburg...6...12...11...15 - 44
Tri-Village- Brown 10, Falknor 11, Richards 10, Thomas 13, Bruner 3. Totals: 16-10-47.
Mechanicsburg - H. Cochran 6, Romero 6, B. Dodane 9, J. Dodane 17, Hux 6. Totals: 18-2-44.
3-ptrs: TV 5 (Brown 2, Falknor, Thomas, Bruner); Mech 6 (B. Dodane 3, J. Dodane 3).