Golden Eagle girls stifle Panthers, 41-27
By GARY HENERY
News Managing Editor
The Golden Eagles’ responded to a Panther challenge down the stretch.
Big Walnut’s fourth-quarter defense, combined with timely free throw shooting, stymied a determined Licking Valley quintet in a 41–27 Golden Eagle non-conference victory Friday night in Sunbury.
Bob Scott’s Golden Eagles, winning for the sixth time in 8 season starts, took a 29–21 lead into the fourth quarter and made it stand up thanks to a defense that shut Licking Valley (5–4) out from the field while forcing the Panthers into 11 turnovers in 16 possessions. The visitors were 0-for-4 from the field in the quarter.
Meanwhile, the Big Walnut offense got key baskets from junior Sara Petty, senior Samantha Klinedinst and junior Skylar Fleak while converting 6 of 9 free throws to outscore the Panthers 12–6 over the final 8 minutes to seal the win.
“With the game on the line, we did a good job maintaining our composure to get the job done,” Scott said. “I was proud of the way we played down the stretch with the game on the line, especially on defense.”
Big Walnut never trailed in the contest. With the Golden Eagle defense forcing 9 Licking Valley turnovers in the Panthers’ first 13 possessions, the hosts held an 8–0 lead with 59 seconds left in the opening quarter. By the intermission, Big Walnut held a 22–9 lead led by the inside scoring of Petty and the outside shooting of junior Hannah Seawell. Petty finished the half with 7 points while Seawell came off the bench in the second quarter to bury a trey and contribute 5 second-quarter points.
After the Golden Eagles stretched their advantage to 26–9 on baskets by Petty and Fleak in the opening two minutes of the second half, Licking Valley turned up its defensive intensity. The Panthers, sparked by 5-foot-9 junior Cassi Stein and 5–3 sophomore Kori Caughenbaugh, closed the third period with a 9–0 run while forcing 6 Big Walnut turnovers to close to within 8 of the lead at 29–21 going into the final quarter.
“We started trying to force our passes against Licking Valley instead of controlling the tempo and running time off the clock,” Scott said. “That’s an area of our game that we need to get better … we’re getting there but it’s going to take time.”
The Golden Eagles’ turnover woes against an aggressive Panther defense continued to start the final period. Big Walnut turned the ball over on 5 of its first 7 possessions, but still managed a Petty basket and a pair of free throws by sophomore Makenna Hammond to pen up a 33–21 lead with 7:14 to play.
Following a timeout, Big Walnut came back out and put the game away as Klinedinst and Fleak combined for a basket and two free throws each while the Golden Eagle defense forced 5 Licking Valley turnovers on the Panthers’ last 6 possessions.
Petty paced Big Walnut with a game-high 14 points, Fleak joined Petty in double figures with 10 points, The Golden Eagles shot 35.3 percent 12-for-34 for the game, adding 16 of 26 free throws (61.5 percent). Led by Petty’s 10 and Fleak’s 9 boards, Big Walnut claimed a 41–26 edge off the glass. The Golden Eagles totaled with 27 turnovers in 59 possessions (45.8 percent), at the expense of 14 points lost to the Panthers.
Stein paced Licking Valley with 12 points and 4 rebounds. Caughenbaugh followed with 6. The Panthers, scoring only 8 field goals, shot only 21.1 percent (8-for-38) from the field. They were 10-for-16 (62.5 percent) at the line. Licking Valley turned the ball over 25 times in 61 possessions (40.98 percent), losing 20 points on its turnovers.
CAMBRIDGE at BIG WALNUT — The Golden Eagles’ Saturday afternoon’s non-conference varsity game with the visiting Bobcats was postponed due to weather. The game will be rescheduled at a later date.