A memorable late-season surge and an unexpected tournament run came to a heartbreaking end for the Barnesville Lady Shamrocks as a four-point lead with 37 seconds remaining got away and Tuscarawas Valley emerged with a 47-46 victory in the Division III District Championship Game at Cambridge High's Gene Ford Gymnasium on Saturday.
Although a chance at the school's first trip to the OHSAA Girls' Regional since 1997 slipped through his team's grasp at the end when Tusky Valley junior Kierra Stewart dropped in two free throws with nine seconds remaining and the ball failed to drop on Barnesville's ensuing 18-footer and then a pair of free throws with seventh-tenths of a second left, it was still a season to be proud of for Coach Jamie Carpenter and his squad.
"Not many people gave us a chance to be in the district final," said Carpenter. "We were just 4-6 halfway through the season and to make it this far is pretty incredible."
Barnesville had won 13 of its last 14 games until Saturday's loss to Tusky Valley (21-5), which advances to the D-III Regional in Logan to face Sardinia Eastern in the semifinals Wednesday at 6:15 p.m. The second regional semifinal that night at 8 p.m. pits Albany Alexander against Lynchburg-Clay.
"Usually at this point, it would be 'we could've done this or that,'", Carpenter continued, "but these girls did everything I asked for 25 games so there's no regrets. They gave it their all."
Barnesville jumped out to a 10-5 lead after one quarter, with 6"4 junior Dulcie Christman scoring twice on the inside and junior Sarah Powell nailing a three-pointer along the way.
Another Christman "bunny" and a three-point connection by sophomore Annastashia Carpenter extended the Lady Shamrocks' lead to 15-5 two minutes into the second period before Tusky Valley came to life with a 9-0 run over the next 90 seconds to cut the lead down to one at 15-14.
Sophomore Jadyn Kuykendall had two hoops in the Lady Trojans' run while senior sub Mariah Horstman converted a steal in to a three-point play to finish it off.
Another big "triple" by Powell and five free throws over the final 2:45 allowed Barnesville to take a 22-15 lead to the intermission.
Two more inside hoops by Christman in the early-going of the third quarter pushed the BHS lead to 27-19 at the 5:41 mark.
A trio of "threes" by junior Boston McKinney and one by junior Jenna Franks and a late rebound bucket by Horstman - countered by two goals from Dowler and a "trey" from Powell - had Barnesville on top by one, 34-33, heading to the final chapter.
Carpenter opened the fourth with a three-pointer, but Tusky Valley got even at 37-all on hoops by freshman sub Abbey Dillon and McKinney. A Christman tally had Barnesville back in the lead, but a three-point play off a turnover by Kuykendall gave the Lady Trojans their first lead of the game, 40-39, with 4:40 remaining.
Dowler scored inside and junior Abby Starr hit two free throws to put the 'Rocks back in front, 43-40, and a goal by TV junior Kierra Stewart had it down to one, 43-42, with 1:50 to go.
Dowler cashed two at the line at the 57-second juncture and one-of-two with 37 ticks left to give Barnesville a four-point edge, 46-42, but Tusky Valley's Franks delivered a big-time "triple" to slice the lead to one, 46-45, with 20 seconds to go.
After Barnesville missed the front end of a one-and-one, Tusky Valley got the ball inside to Stewart who was fouled, but she calmly hit both "freebies" for what proved to be the game-winning points once the 'Rocks misfired on their last-ditch shot and free throws.
"Number 11 (Franks) hit a huge shot to get it down to one," Carpenter stated of the late-game happenings, "and we had trouble getting the ball back in Kallee's hands.
"(At the end), we needed one stop...and we've been able to get that stop or that rebound all year," he added, "but it just didn't bounce our way today."
McKinney led Tusky Valley with 13 points while the rest of the starting five saw Stewart with eight; Kuykendall with seven and Franks and Hall with six apiece. Hall pulled down 11 rebounds and Stewart had eight.
Dowler closed with 14 points for Barnesville, with Christman scoring 12 and Powell adding nine. Carpenter with six and Starr with five completed the scoring. Chirstman turned in another solid game inside as she also had 15 rebounds and six blocks. Starr collected six boards while Powell and Dowler each dished out five assists.
Tusky Valley was 17-of-49 from the field and 8-of-14 at the free throw line while Barnesville cashed 14-of-37 action shots and 13-of-24 charity tosses. Both sides had 34 rebounds and The Lady Shamrocks wound up with 13 turnovers to eight for the Lady Trojans.
The good thing for Carpenter & Co. is that only one player is lost from a 17-win squad. The bad thing, however, is it's all-Ohio candidate Kallee Dowler.
"It's tough to say good-bye to Kallee," said Carpenter of his 1,000-point scorer. "She's such a phenomenal player and I'm so glad they (her family) made the decision to come back (to Barnesville) and I got to coach her for three years."