Fast start propels West Muskingum to sectional title

Chad Williams
West Muskingum poses for a photo after winning the Division III sectional title with a 61-16 rout of Barnesville on Thursday.

FALLS TOWNSHIP - The Barnesville girls basketball team braved below freezing temperatures to visit a gymnasium turned hot by the shooting of the West Muskingum Tornadoes.

The 12th-seeded Shamrocks (7-14) found out quickly it would take a herculean effort to best this Tornadoes' team as coach Jason Perkins called an emergency time-out with less than two minutes elapsed to reset his team as West Muskingum went up 8-0.

West Muskingum continued to build that momentum and hope it can turn into a long tournament run, as the seventh seeded Tornadoes kept the pedal down to win the Division III sectional final, decidedly, 61-16.

West Muskingum (11-4) advances to play at second seed Fort Frye in a district semifinal at 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 25.

West Muskingum’s Brooke Pauley hit two 3s in the first two minutes to put Barnesville (7-14) on alert, while Barnesville’s Halle Markovich used her signature post spin play to score the first two points for the Shamrocks with just under four minutes left in the first quarter.

West Muskingum's Gracie Settles grabs a steal and looks for a teammate in Thursday's 61-16 Division III sectional final win over Barnesville.

It didn’t matter if the Tornadoes were shooting from around the bucket or beyond the three-point line, almost every shot was finding its way through the hoop. West scored 21 points in the first quarter behind Pauley’s fast six, Zoie Settle’s nine counters, and Ava Van Reeth’s four points.

The quarter ended 21-4 as Markovich added two free throws for Barnesville.

West Muskingum employed a high energy defense, switching from a full-court press to a very effective half-court trap. Barnesville had trouble navigating the West M traps and gave up the ball several times to the hot-shooting Tornados.

West M’s Madalynn Kennedy led all scorers with 15 points. She scored all but three of them in the second quarter, leading the Tornadoes to a 40-point halftime lead, 51-11.

Kennedy said she wanted to thank her teammates for all the hard work this season that led to this well-deserved win.

Barnesville got a bucket each from Lillian Ford, Ava McFarland, and Anna Yater. Kinzie Kaplet added a free throw to give the Shamrock’s seven points in the second quarter.

The second half was played under a running clock and with no stoppages except for major events. West M added 10 points to its effort, while Barnesville scored five, including a triple in the last quarter by Ellie Thompson.

Coach Perkins rotated every player in and out numerous times. Each Shamrock continued to fight every second they were on the court, and the players on the bench and coaches continued to encourage and praise their team to the end of the game.

Perkins stated he wanted to thank his senior players; Kortnie Luyster, Rylee Stephens, and Kinzie Kaplet for all their hard work throughout the season.

Barnesville's Anna Yater takes a shot over a West Muskingum defender during Thursday's Division III sectional final. The Tornadoes won 61-16.

Markovich and Yater led Barnesville with four points each. Yater provided a strong presence inside grabbing every rebound that came her way.

West M’s bench, now housing most of the starters, erupted every time a player made a steal, rebound, or put up a point in the second half.

Settles and Pauley ended with 11 points each, Taylor Spung scored eight, and Emma Allen had West M’s only point in the fourth quarter.

West Muskingum coach Todd Van Reeth watched his team cut down the nets while saying he was proud of his team’s perseverance. They went weeks without being able to practice and lost key starters to injuries.

Van Reeth stated he was excited to get to the next game to evaluate the performance level of the program, and added, “The MVL is very, very good in girls’ basketball with a lot of great players and great coaches.”