A Division II girls basketball sectional final victory did not come easily Thursday night for host Buchtel.
Not when the team on the other side was Tallmadge, a scrappy squad that despite having a sub-par record held a nine-point lead at halftime.
Buchtel, the No. 1 seed, increased its pressure defensively in the second half and made better decisions on offense to grind out a 63-53 win.
The Griffins (17-6) advanced to a district semifinal against No. 4 seed Canton South at 6 p.m. Monday at Lake. Canton South beat Ravenna 60-44 on Thursday.
“Tallmadge is a good team and they had a great first half,” Buchtel coach Brian Neugebauer said. “They scored 34 points, hit some 3s and multiple girls hit shots. We then had to turn things up defensively. That is what we do best, and that is what we did in the second half to change things around.”
Senior Imani Jackson led Buchtel with 15 points, junior Javaan Rogers scored 13 points and freshman Leah Cheatham finished with 12 points.
“We went in at halftime, had a talk and came out playing even harder,” Rogers said. “When we pressure people and get into them, we force turnovers.”
Sophomores Da’Veonna Nash, Kanai Chance and Amiyah Stallings also contributed to Buchtel playing fast. Nash totaled nine points, four rebounds, four assists and three steals, Chance scored seven points and Stallings scored five points.
“The team stayed together during the hardest points and played defense to get this win,” said Jackson, who also had six steals and five rebounds.
Senior Andreana Gotto paced eighth-seeded Tallmadge with 17 points, five assists and four rebounds, and junior Lizzie Bickar had 12 points, five assists and five rebounds.
The Blue Devils (8-15) also received solid efforts from junior Jordyn Severns (seven points, five rebounds), junior Rae Lya Sibley (seven points), freshman Addy Bowman (six points, six rebounds) and junior Jill Catalano (four points, nine rebounds.)
Buchtel led 18-14 at the end of the first quarter. Tallmadge opened the second quarter on a 20-4 run to lead 34-22 with 1:18 left in the half. Bickar scored eight points during the surge, and Gotto scored five points.
Tallmadge led 34-25 at halftime and 45-42 through three quarters. Buchtel ended the third quarter on an 8-2 run, and opened the fourth quarter on a 15-2 run to lead 57-47 with 2:05 to go. Jackson and Nash both scored nine points in the second half, and Rogers contributed eight points.
“We played hard,” Tallmadge coach Collin Epstein said. “The first time we played them, they beat us 50-32 and I didn’t really feel like it was that close. We came out tonight prepared and followed our game plan. We executed and I think we out-played them in the first half. … In the second half, I think we got worn down and tired. We only played six girls throughout the night, and we started to turn the ball over and that affects things.”
Michael Beaven can be reached at 330-996-3829 or email@example.com.