Tina-Avalon Girls, Southwest Livingston Boys Reign in CLAA Hoops Tournament
Wildcats repeat 2020 title-game win over Mendon: Northwestern Thursday after Lady Dragons clobber played-out Braymer
- Southwest's Warren, Tina-Avalon's Samantha Rounkles tournament MVPs
- Three T-A Lady Dragons on Bob Carter Memorial All-Tournament girls' team
By PAUL STURM, C-T Sports Editor
TINA — Completed, at least in its abbreviated format, five nights later than originally planned, the 2021 Carroll-Livingston Activity Association conference high school basketball tournament crowned a repeat champion and a program which had not sat on the CLAA throne for 15 years Thursday (Feb. 18).
After the second-seeded Lady Dragons of the league tournament’s host school for most of its history – Tina-Avalon – obliterated unexpected finalist Braymer 65-24, Southwest Livingston’s Wildcats, who had gone 23 years between titles before winning it last year, used a 10-2 run late in the third quarter and at the start of the fourth and a 7-0 spurt in the middle of the fourth to subdue determined Mendon: Northwestern 57-45.
Following a week’s delay, due to bad winter weather and poor travel conditions, the tournament was reduced to, effectively, a single-elimination format and, after one more day’s postponement, utilized dual playing sites for its quarterfinals round to reach completion in three days just ahead of the start of postseason, district-tournament competition Saturday (Feb. 20).
Following completion of the boys’ championship-game tourney finale, members of the Bob Carter Memorial All-Tournament Teams for each gender, including the respective most valuable players, were announced to the restricted-admission crowd, along with the school voted by tourney game officials to receive the Gail O’Neal Memorial Sportsmanship Award.
Named MVPs, as routinely is the case, were Samantha Rounkles of Tina-Avalon’s girls and Patrick Warren of Southwest Livingston’s boys. Both are 2020-21 seniors.
The other four girls selected to their division’s Carter all-tourney squad were S. Rounkles’ teammates Haley Rucker and Regan Crowe, Norborne’s Olivia Dooley, and Kennedy Stone of league rookie Braymer.
On the boys’ unit with Warren were his teammate/classmate, Wesley Hughes, along with Isaac Zahner and Trey Stockwell of Northwestern, and Jaeden Sears of Hale/Bosworth.
The O’Neal sportsmanship award went to Norborne.
The awards’ namesakes were involved with the tournament for many, many years. Carter covered it as sports editor of the Chillicothe Constitution-Tribune for more than a quarter-century and O’Neal officiated in it for many years. Both died prematurely at relatively-young ages, O’Neal of illness and Carter in a traffic crash.
(B 1st) #1 Southwest Livingston 57, #2 Mendon: Northwestern 45
Thursday’s matchup of the Nos. 1 and 2 boys’ seeds – a pairing which produced a 65-46 SLHS triumph a year ago – was anyone’s to claim midway through the third quarter. Finally, Southwest’s Wildcats did so.
Following a close battle with rarely more than three points separating the squads through the first 22 minutes, the CLAA’s regular-season boys’ champion made two decisive moves that led to their adding the tournament crown to their 2020-21 collection.
With Northwestern’s Eagles (17-3), surprisingly pesky even as, for the second year in a row, they tried to pull off a significant surprise and win the title without the services of their best player – injured post player Hunter Stockwell, the score stood 37-36 in Southwest’s favor after NHS’ Gannon Johnson followed his third trifecta of the game – from quarter-court on the left side, about 25 feet out – with a right-side drive to finish a transition opportunity at the 2:14 mark of the third period.
With SLHS first-year boys’ head coach Julie Bothwell, veteran leader of the school’s girls’ program, having just opted to “go big” with her lineup, the Wildcats (14-4) took some control at last by taking over in and around the paint.
Putting both 6’3” starting post player Morgan Anderson and husky 6’6” junior reserve pivot Remington Woodcock on the court simultaneously, rather than as alternatives to each other, Southwest Livingston closed the third period and began the fourth with a 10-2 surge which left it holding a then-game-best 9-points lead, 47-38, 20 seconds into the final frame.
Following Johnson’s layup that made the margin a single point with 2:14 to go in the third stanza, R. Woodcock scored close in and guard Chase Neptune finished off a fast-break drive not quite a half-minute later.
Although Zahner netted a breakaway layup off a loose ball to make it again a 1-possession game 52 seconds before the period ended, We. Hughes sank two of three free throws and Anderson putback his own miss after first rebounding an off-target R. Woodcock free throw to send the Wildcats to the last segment in front 45-38.
R. Woodcock then hit a stickback of his own off a Neptune miss 21 seconds into the fourth period to make the SLHS lead nine.
Even though Johnson nailed his fourth – and last – trey from the right wing with 6:40 to play, Southwest Livingston landed another series of blows which, by and large, settled the outcome. Once more, it was inside size and strength that Northwestern could not hope to match without H. Stockwell in uniform that lifted the Wildcats.
R. Woodcock scored in the lane with a 6-footer with 5:40 remaining. After more than 80 scoreless seconds, We. Hughes was fouled again and made one of two at the line to recreate the 9-points bulge. Anderson’s right-block lay-in off double-teamed R. Woodcock’s dump-down feed from mid-lane created the contest’s first double-figures lead and R. Woodcock capped the 7-0 stretch with a press-break lay-in off Neptune’s feed. With 2:41 remaining, Southwest Livingston at last had things in hand, 54-41.
Statistically, the champion Wildcats used scoring balance to win on this occasion. We. Hughes’ three triples led to a team-best 14 points, but Anderson, playing well at both ends – start to finish, was close behind with 12 tallies and R. Woodcock and Neptune provided 10 more apiece. MVP Warren, who wasn’t at his best after a big night in the semifinals win the evening before, chipped in another eight.
Pacing all scorers in the game was Johnson with 16 markers, but only T. Stockwell with 10 was able to join him in twin numerals.
(G 1st) #2 Tina-Avalon 65, #4 Braymer 24
Playing aggressively, sharp and smart from the opening moments, Tina-Avalon’s Lady Dragons – once rulers of the tourney’s girls’ division from 1988-93 – claimed their first such crown since back-to-back titles in 2005-06 – with a complete decimation of Braymer, the first-year league member which also has the CLAA’s largest high school enrollment.
Pre-game speculation about the physical and emotional toll Braymer’s 79-77, double-overtime upset of top-seeded Norborne barely 24 hours earlier might have taken on the Lady ’Cats (6-4) were resoundingly borne out.
Seemingly a split-second slow to react and respond and just heavy-legged enough that Tina-Avalon’s taller front line rebounded very effectively at both ends of the court and the Lady Dragons (15-3) flowed faster up and down the floor, Braymer saw a very-early 2-1 lead swallowed up by a 20-4 blitz by the hosts the rest of the first quarter.
Playing to its height advantages and pushing the pace, – both as its normal preference and to test Braymer’s fatigue level, second-year T-A head coach Trent Moore confirmed, Tina-Avalon pushed its margin into the 20s early in the second segment and was up 37-12 at halftime.
After securing the large lead after eight minutes, the Lady Dragons put together a 10-0 run early in the second stanza on consecutive Samantha Rounkles buckets, senior guard Haley Rucker’s putback that pushed her to 1,000 points for her career, Kadie Rounkles’ deuce, and 6’1” senior S. Rounkles’ transition drive that made it 31-8 with 4-1/2 minutes to go in the second quarter.
The opening half ended fittingly when, after another offensive rebound by T-A, the Lady Dragons’ Morgan Brockmeier was ruled to have been fouled while trying a 3-pointer at the buzzer. Scoreless previously, the quiet senior coolly flipped home all three free throws without touching the iron to finish off a 25-points spread as both sides retired to their locker rooms.
Things didn’t change at all following the break in play as S. Rounkles followed an opening Lady ’Cats miss with a transition deuce.
T-A pushed farther and farther ahead, reaching a 30-points spread on S. Rounkles’ “and-1” at the 4:59 mark of the third quarter, a three-points play it soon followed with a Rucker 4-footer in the paint in transition and S. Rounkles’ right-side lay-in off a high-low setup from K. Rounkles at the 3:35 mark. Before the third quarter ended, the separation moved past 40 points.
The Lady Dragons posted 27 of the first 37 points of the last half and, when S. Rounkles hit a putback with the fourth-quarter “running clock” at 5:10, it gave her team a flabbergasting – for a tournament-championship contest – 64-22 lead.
Statistically, S. Rounkles led all scorers with 23 points, while Crowe provided 15 and Rucker 12. Braymer was led by forward Kennedy Stone’s 14.
(G) Norborne 46, Southwest Livingston 19
Despite the extreme exertion and eventual disappointment of the previous night’s double-overtime loss to Braymer in the semifinals, Norborne’s girls had more than enough to dominate the far-slower-paced third-place game.
The Lady Pirates (17-3) allowed Southwest Livingston’s Lady Wildcats (11-7) only one first-half field goal, allowing their own rather-pedestrian 21 tallies to generate a comfortable 17-points lead at the mid-game break. It was 32-8, NHS, going to the fourth quarter.
Kayla Dooley’s 11 points topped the balanced Norborne offense. Gracie McKinney and Kate Brown joined her in dual digits with 10 apiece.
Southwest’s top scorer in the game, Allee Hein, got all six of her points on two last-stanza treys.
(B) Hale/Bosworth 61, Tina-Avalon 32
In a turnaround which almost defies explanation, after struggling offensively the entire game the previous night and the first half against T-A, Hale/Bosworth’s Cardinals (15-8) went from trailing 18-16 at halftime to enjoying a “running-clock” lead early in the fourth quarter via a 33-2 sprint. Only a last-minutes mini-spurt by the Dragons (7-13) brought the ending spread below 30.
Hale/Bosworth was paced in scoring by Tristian Crose’s 15 points, Ethan Hoerr’s 14, and Drake Heussner’s 10. Freshman Crose and junior Heussner combined for 21 of their 25 points in the final half.
Kylier Sturgeon led T-A with nine.