Note: This recap appears in the Wednesday, Dec. 5 newspaper on Page B4.
THE PLAINS — For all the game-planning and scheming, Monday’s Tri-Valley Conference Ohio Division girls’ basketball game was decided in large part by the simplest part of the game.
The visiting Wellston Golden Rockets made 27 free throws, while Athens only sank six.
That was the difference, as Wellston earned a 53-44 victory over the Bulldogs at McAfee Gymnasium.
“We’ve been in these situations in years past, missing free throws down the stretch,” Wellston coach Scot Sturgill said. “Today, we made enough free throws.”
The Rockets did indeed, making 27-of-43 for the game.
They made 24 of their first 31 to build a 10-point fourth-quarter lead.
Senior Tory Doles led the way, making 15 of her 22 free throws, including 13 of her first 14 tries.
Doles finished with a game-high 22 points and 11 rebounds.
“Tory is a pretty gutsy player for us,” Sturgill said. ”She’s a four-year starter for us.”
Athens coach Seth Matheny could only shake his head as he looked at the stat sheet in his office afterward.
The Bulldogs made only six of 21 free throw attempts, including 1 of 11 in the first half. Athens had a made free throw wiped out in the second half due to a lane violation.
From the field, Athens made just 17-of-67 attempts, including 4-of-29 three-point tries.
“We struggled putting the ball in the hole,” Matheny said. “I can’t remember what we were exactly from the field, but it wasn’t real good.
“We’ve just got to play better defense. It’s disappointing. You give up 27 points at the free throw line, it’s tough to hang in that game honestly.”
For all of its struggles shooting the basketball, it appeared Athens (1-2, 0-1 Tri-Valley Conference Ohio Division) might be poised to steal the win away from Wellston (2-1, 1-0 TVC-Ohio) in the fourth quarter.
After trailing by 11, Athens went on an 8-0 run to trail just 39-36.
Mindi Gregory’s three-pointer and Kaylee Stewart’s field goal with 5:20 left made it 39-35.
To make matters worse for Wellston, Sydney Mullins fouled out with 5:17 left, with Gregory’s free throw cutting the Rockets’ lead to three points.
Doles stepped up to hit the biggest shot of the game from there.
She sized up an open three-pointer from a few feet behind the top of the arc.
The shot went down, and Wellston restored a 42-36 lead with under five minutes to play.
“About a minute prior to that three she came down and took one from the top of the key and it rimmed out,” Sturgill said. “There was a dead ball, and I looked at Tory and said, ‘that’s a good shot. I want you to take that every time.’
“I looked at her and she had that look in her eye tonight.”
The shot was the start of a 7-0 run, as Wellston led 46-36 when Doles made two more free throws with 3:48 remaining. Athens never got closer than down six points the rest of the way.
“We made a run,” Matheny said. “Made a few shots that allowed us to make a run late there, but then went cold again real quick.”
Wellston’s biggest deficit was just three points, coming at 5-2 and 7-4 early in the game.
The Rockets took the lead, 9-7, after a quarter thanks to Emma Jadrnicek’s three-pointer and enjoyed the lead nearly the rest of the way.
Athens’ only lead the final three quarters came on Harper Bennett’s putback to open the third, putting the ‘Dogs up 19-18.
The Rockets quickly answered when Doles assisted on Emily Kisor’s shot inside.
Wellston would lead 37-26 after three —thanks to consecutive threes by Jadrnicek, who finished with 11 points off the bench.
The Rockets only shot 11-of-52 from the field, but it was enough to get the win.
Kisor added eight points, while Mya Bouska had four points, eight rebounds and two assists.
Wellston freshman Jenna Johnston also provided key defense on Athens’ leading scorer in Laura Manderick.
Johnston, and Kenna Kilgour, face-guarded Manderick all over the court and limited her to four points on 2-of-9 shooting.
“We basically played man, but we just face-guarded her the full length of the court,” Sturgill said. “We really wanted her to work for everything that she got. Jenna, she’s going to be a pretty good player for us and we put Kenna Kilgour on her as well. Just chasing her.”
Athens was also forced to play without senior Emma Harter, who was out due to sickness.
Gregory led the Bulldogs in scoring with 13 points, adding eight rebounds.
Stewart had seven points and 10 rebounds, while Kesi Federspiel had seven points. Bennett had five points and seven rebounds.
“We rebounded the ball well,” Matheny said. “Improved on turnovers, but our off-ball movement tonight was not good tonight.”
The Rockets and Sturgill were able to enjoy the win afterwards.
The veteran 11-year head coach led Wellston to its first win at Athens since the Bulldogs joined the league in the 2008-09 season.
“It was a big win,” he said. “Big win for our program. We’re excited.”
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Wellston 9 9 19 16 — 53
Athens 7 10 9 18 — 44
WELLSTON 53 (2-1, 1-0 TVC-Ohio)
Tory Doles 3 15-22 22, Jenna Johnston 1 0-0 2, Mya Bouska 0 4-8 4, Emily Kisor 1 6-6 8, Sydney Mullins 2 1-2 5, Kenna Kilgour 0 1-2 1, Daycee Clemens 0 0-0 0, Emma Jadrnicek 4 0-3 11; TOTALS 11 27-43 53; 3-point field goals 4 (Emma Jadrnicek 3, Tory Doles 1)
ATHENS 44 (1-2, 0-1 TVC-Ohio)
Lily Mills 1 0-0 2, Bella Tan 2 0-0 4, Laura Manderick 2 0-0 4, Mindi Gregory 5 1-6 13, Kaylee Stewart 2 3-8 7, Emmerald Jean-Francois 0 0-0 0, Kesi Federspiel 2 2-5 7, Harper Bennett 2 0-2 5, Haylie Mills 1 0-0 2; TOTALS 17 6-21 44; 3-point field goals: 4 (Mindi Gregory 2, Kesi Federspiel and Harper Bennett 1 apiece)
TEAM STATISTICS/INDIVIDUAL LEADERS
Field goals — Wellston 11-52 (.212), 3-point field goals 4-19 (.211); Athens — 17-67 (.254), 3-point field goals 4-29 (.138); Free throws — Wellston 27-43 (.628), Athens 6-21 (.286); Rebounds — Wellston 52 (Tory Doles 11), Athens 54 (Kaylee Stewart 10); Assists — Wellston 6 (Mya Bouska 2), Athens 7 (Laura Manderick 3); Blocks — Wellston 1 (Sydney Mullins 1), Athens 3 (Lily Mills 2); Turnovers — Wellston 16, Athens 18; Steals — Wellston 7 (Mya Bouska 3), Athens 8; Team fouls — Wellston 19, Athens 29
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Kevin Wiseman is the sports editor of The Athens Messenger