An outstanding fourth-quarter effort by Valley came up just short Saturday as top-seeded Frontier held on to claim the OVAC 1A Championship at Ohio University Eastern's Health and Physical Education Center by a final of 51-46.
Valley (16-6) found itself with a large deficit entering the fourth quarter, trailing 44-27.
It was looking like Frontier (16-6) was rolling to its third OVAC title in the last four years but the Lumberjills did not go away quietly. In fact, Valley outscored the Cougars 19-7 in the final eight minutes of the game but ran out of time to complete what would have been a miraculous comeback.
Photos by Bruce Crawford
Valley Valley Lumberjills OVAC Class-A Runner-ups
"I am really proud of this team," Valley coach Jeff Derby said. "We really started making some shots in the fourth quarter but we just ran out of time."
Senior Melanie Thomas provided the spark with seven points in the final frame for the Lumberjills, who were playing in their first OVAC championship game in school history, though Derby hopes there will be more to come.
"The future is looking bright for Valley basketball," Derby said.
"We have a young group of kids and now we just have to focus on sectionals."
Valley's Sophie Palmer collected two free throws to start the game but then the Lumberjills went cold and Frontier delivered an 11-0 run, triggered by back-to-back 3-pointers from Lexi Brookover, which really gave it momentum.
"Our girls came out nervous in the first half and Brookover came out hitting," Derby said. "She is a really good ballplayer."
Brookover was named the inaugural winner of the John Howell MVP Award, given to the star of the game.
En route to garnering the award, the senior amassed 17 points, drained a trio of 3-pointers and collected a team-high nine rebounds.
"Lexi has been our 3-point shooter for us all year," Frontier coach Scott Murphy said.
"It was just icing on the cake for Lexi to get that first MVP. I thought it was cool because I didn't know they were going to hand that out.
"I am proud of her and that whole senior group. They are pretty special."
The seniors of Frontier have gathered OVAC titles in three of their four years with the program.
"This says a lot about our senior class and who they are," Murphy said. "They came in with the right attitude and it has never been about stats. It is all about wins with them. We are building a program that is trying to get to championships and wow, they have a lot to show for it."
The second quarter began with Frontier securing a 13-4 advantage and an 18-11 lead with 4:14 left in the half when the it recorded an 8-0 spurt to extend the lead to 26-11. Kylie Daugherty provided a basket with five seconds left in the first half to give her squad a 30-18 lead at the break.
The Cougars extended their lead in the third behind six points from Nikki Haught and a buzzer-beater from Brookover, who continued to shine on the game's biggest stage, giving Frontier a 44-27 lead at the end of the third.
In the fourth, Valley received 3-pointers from Caitlyn Underwood and Emma Ueltschy and three buckets from Thomas. All three players had been held scoreless until the final quarter.
"Melanie (Thomas) kept playing out there," Derby said of the senior.
"Sophie Palmer, who always plays well, had a good game for us too, as well as Rachel Baker. I am just proud of all of our girls."
The Lumberjills connected on 9-for-19 from the free-throw line, while Frontier drilled 15 of 17 that also proved to be the difference in winning and losing.
Complementing Brookover's solid performance for Frontier was Daugherty who tallied 13 points and six rebounds, while Haught cashed in for 11 points and Samantha Morris added seven points, eight boards and four steals.
Baker recorded a double-double with 16 points and 10 rebounds, while Palmer turned in a team-high 17 points, four steals and a block. Thomas garnered seven points, six rebounds, four blocks, and made one steal.
In addition, Underwood and Ueltschy both connected from downtown for all the 'Jills scoring.
Bruce Crawford contributed to this story.
Thunder And Lightning Leads Valley In Win Over Trinity
The Valley Lumberjills' Thunder and Lightning duo of Rachel Baker and Sophie Palmer netted 34 of the 'Jills 49 points en route to a 49-32 victory over the Trinity Lady Warriors in the OVAC 1A semifinals Feb. 4 at VHS Gymnasium.
Valley took control from the start as Baker won the tip and from their S Palmer dished off Baker to open the scoring.
Palmer would take it hard to the hole to give Valley a 4-0 early advantage, and Palmer picked-off an errant Trinity pass and dished it off to Melanie Thomas for a deuce. Palmer pulled down a rebound and found Emma Ueltschy wide open down the court for an easy bucket for a 8-0 lead.
After a Trinity timeout, Baker spotted Caitlyn Underwood open for another easy bucket, while Palmer tacked on another deuce off a Thomas rebound. Thunder and Lightning struck again for two more buckets that forced another Warrior timeout.
After the timeout, Trinity got its first and only bucket of the period right before the buzzer, with Valley holding a convincing
16-2 lead. Thunder and Lightning tallied 10 of the 'Jills 16 points in the opening stanza.
After a Baker deuce to open the second period, the Lady Warriors buckled down to make a game of it and scored five straight points, before Palmer and Baker each adding a bucket and assist stopped the Trinity run.
However, Trinity tallied three straight buckets, before Baker assisted Thomas on a deuce. But the Warriors' Reagon Sharp kissed one off the glass to end the half with Valley on top, 26-20.
Baker paced the Lumberjills with six points while Emily Sourborn and Sharp accounted for 15 of the 18 Warriors points.
Both teams came out a little sluggish, as both teams scored only five points, with Sharp sinking three, and Rachel Rosen a deuce for Trinity. Palmer and Tessa Dudgeon each sank a deuce, while Baker sank a free throw for the Lumberjills.
In the fourth period, Trinity sank a pair of freebies at the charity line to close the gap to 31-27, but it was shortlived as
Baker netted the game's next five points that forced a Trinity timeout.
After the break, Trinity sank two of four free throws, while Underwood sank a two-pointer. Thunder and Lightning struck again as
Baker and Palmer each tallied four points, while Underwood sank a free throw.
Trinity landed the only three-pointer made, while the 'Jills Baker and Dudgeon finished the Valley scoring with a pair of two-pointers.
Thunder and Lightning paced the Lumberjills in scoring with 20 and 14 points, respectively, with Baker adding eight rebounds, and Parsons tacked on eight assists and six steals.
In addition, Underwood posted five markers, while Thomas and Dudgeon each netted four points, while Ueltschy sank a deuce.
The Trinity Warriors Emily Sauborn tallied a team-high 11 points, while Sharp sank 10 points.
Valley/Trinity coverage by Bruce Crawford.