Nothing less than first place in the Frontier Athletic Conference was on the line Wednesday when the McClain Lady Tigers visited Miami Trace High School to take on the Lady Panthers.
McClain was 7-1 in the conference entering the game and Miami Trace was 6-1.
Back on Jan. 16, the teams met at McClain High School with the Lady Tigers winning, 41-40, in overtime.
Wednesday, it was Miami Trace coming away with a 37-31 victory.
The Lady Panthers, now 11-5 overall, have a game Saturday at noon at home against Washington and then will play at Hillsboro next Thursday.
Last season, McClain and Miami Trace tied for the FAC title, both finishing at 8-2.
Miami Trace senior Gracee Stewart and McClain senior Emma Stegbauer shared high-scoring honors, each with 12 points.
Senior Kyla Burchett had six points for McClain, senior Jaelyn Pitzer scored five points, sophomore Payton Pryor scored four and senior Bri Weller and junior Iva Easter each scored two points for the Lady Tigers.
“I had several people reach out to me today wishing us luck,” Miami Trace coach Ben Ackley said. It was a game of two evenly-matched teams. “That’s why the last three years I think we’ve split. When we’ve been at their place, they’ve beaten us and here we’ve held serve.
“I just couldn’t be more proud of our kids and their resiliency,” Ackley said. “We got the lead early. I was a little concerned at halftime, because I thought we dominated the first half in almost every aspect, except the scoreboard. When you play as well as I thought we played, and executed our game plan and you look up and we’re only up five or six points, it was pretty concerning…
“Libby Aleshire and Emma Pitstick gave us monumental minutes tonight,” Ackley added. “I think Bri Weller is the leading scorer in our league. She’s as good a player as there is in this league. Now our girls have put themselves in a position to do something special at the end of the year if we can take care of our business.
“I thought Emma Stegbauer was absolutely incredible tonight. She sacrificed her offense to be a floor general and to be the best defender in the league for four years. Tonight she showed she can score as well as anyone in this league. Every time she caught the ball, I was scared to death.”
Miami Trace led 4-0 to begin the game. McClain scored the next five points to take a 5-4 lead. The Lady Panthers scored the next five points to go in front, 9-5, at the end of the first quarter.
In all, it was an 11-0 run for Miami Trace as they scored the first six points of the second quarter to extend its lead to 15-5, prompting McClain to call a time out with 5:58 left to play in the first half.
McClain outscored Miami Trace 8-4 during the remainder of the half as the Lady Panthers took a 19-13 lead into the locker room.
It was a bit of a slow start to the third quarter, with no scoring until Pitzer hit a three-point basket with 5:20 to play in the period, cutting Miami Trace’s lead to three points.
Eakins scored, followed by a basket from Pitstick to put the score at 23-16 Miami Trace with 2:42 to play in the third quarter.
McClain was able to pull to within five points, but after three complete it was Miami Trace in front, 29-21.
In the fourth quarter, McClain again pulled to within five points, but could draw no closer.
Miami Trace led by 10 points, 37-27, with 2:47 to play in the game. As it turned out, Miami Trace did not score again in the game. McClain scored the final four points of the game, setting the resulting tally at 37-31.
Miami Trace made 14 of 30 field goal attempts for 47 percent.
McClain made 10 of 36 shot attempts from the field for 28 percent.
“We didn’t play well, offensively,” McClain coach Jarrod Haines said. “Emma Stegbauer did for us and that’s who guarded Magarah Bloom. Emma played extremely hard and was attacking the basket. We didn’t attack like we have. They did take away Bri (Weller) attacking the basket,” Haines said. “She averages 15 points a game and she only comes away with two and that definitely hurt us.
“We’re going to keep fighting. We’re from Greenfield, that’s what we do.”
McClain, 14-4 overall, will play Hillsboro on Monday.
SCORE BY QUARTERS
MT 9 10 10 8 — 37
Mc 5 8 8 10 — 31
MIAMI TRACE — Hillary McCoy 0-0-0; Gracee Stewart 5-2-12; Magarah Bloom 0-0-0; Libby Aleshire 1-0-2; Gracey Ferguson 1-0-2; Hillery Jacobs 2-1-5; Emma Pitstick 2-4-8; Delaney Eakins 3-2-8. TOTALS — 14-9-37. Free throw shooting: 9 of 12 for 75 percent. Three-point field goals: none. Field goal shooting: 14 of 30 for 47 percent. Three-point field goal shooting: 0 of 3. Rebounds: 27 (6 offensive). Turnovers: 12. Assists: 4. Steals: 4. Blocked shots: 1. Fouls: 10.
McCLAIN — Bri Weller 0-2-2; Payton Pryor 1-2-4; Jaelyn Pitzer 1 (1)-0-5; Iva Easter 1-0-2; Jaden McCoy 0-0-0; Josie Crabtree 0-0-0; Kyla Burchett 1 (1)-1-6; Emma Stegbauer 2 (2)-2-12. TOTALS — 6 (4)-7-31. Free throw shooting: 7 of 11 for 64 percent. Three-point field goals: Stegbauer, 2; Pitzer, Burchett. Field goal shooting: 10 of 36 for 28 percent. Three-point field goal shooting: 4 of 17 for 24 percent. Turnovers: 9. Offensive rebounds: 8.
Chris Hoppes is the sports editor for the Record-Herald in Washington C.H.