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Lady Cavs' season ends in heartbreaking sectional final loss

By Carson Francis

The Chillicothe Lady Cavaliers had a perfect opportunity to put last week's FAC Championship loss behind them as they traveled to Waverly on Monday night to face the Lady Tigers in a sectional final that featured two teams separated by just 18 miles.

Despite a career night from Chillicothe's Jacey Harding, putting up career-highs in both points (27) and rebounds (16), the Lady Cavs were not able to hold on to a late lead and fell to Waverly, 50-46.

The game started out as a defensive battle, as Chillicothe took advantage of 6 Waverly turnovers and jumped out to an early 9-6 lead at the end of the first quarter. The Lady Cavs matched the intensity of the Tigers' 1-3-1 zone defense by playing defense with a full court trap from the beginning of the game. Harding scored a put-back and a three-pointer to score the first five points of the game for Chillicothe, while Emma Barnes and Avery Cox contributed the next four.

While the Lady Cavs were able to take advantage of turnovers from the other side, it would be their own turnovers that would allow the Tigers to claw their way back into the game. To end the half on a 6-2 run, Waverly's Bailey Vulgamore stole the ball from the Lady Cavs and scored on the other end right before the buzzer to tie the game at 25 going into the half.

Chillicothe shot a less than desirable 10-32 (31%) from the field in the first half and went 2-8 (25%) from three-point range in the first half. This would continue to haunt the Lady Cavs into the second half.

Waverly seemed to hit nearly every shot they took in the third quarter as they outscored the Lady Cavs, 16-7. The Tigers went into the fourth quarter with a 41-32 lead, but the ensuing quarter would show just how much heart the Lady Cavs played with last night and all throughout this season.

For the final eight minutes of the game, Chillicothe was suffocating the Tigers on defense and created opportunities to find their way back into the game, forcing turnovers and grabbing nearly every rebound. When they did, Jacey Harding went to work. The Lady Cavs went on a 12-4 run in the first 4 minutes and 39 seconds of the fourth quarter before a Waverly timeout, with Harding scoring all twelve points. After the timeout, Harding would be fouled while driving to the rim and made both free throws to put Chillicothe back in the lead, 46-45.

Harding's two free throws, however, would be the last Cavalier points of the night.

While Chillicothe was still playing good defense in the final two and a half minutes of the game, they were not able to prevent the Lady Tigers from making trips to the free throw line. Four consecutive Waverly free throws, along with a missed three-pointer by Chillicothe's Avery Erslan, and a missed one-and-one by Chillicothe's Kiera Archer, gave the Lady Tigers a 49-46 lead late in the ball game.

With time running out, the Lady Cavs knew who needed to have the ball in her hands. Jacey Harding brought the ball up the court with 32 seconds left in the game and pulled up from beyond the arc, but the shot was no good, and both players and fans of the Waverly Lady Tigers breathed a sigh of relief. An extra free throw with 27 seconds left sealed the victory as Waverly defeated Chillicothe, 50-46, in the Divison II Sectional Final.

Jacey Harding led the way for Chillicothe with her outstanding 27 points and 16 rebounds. Senior Emma Barnes followed in scoring with 9 points in her final game as a Cavalier. Kelli Stewart led Waverly with 23 points and 5 rebounds, with Bailey Vulgamore following with 15 points. Waverly will move on to face Fairfield Union in the District Semifinal on Saturday at Southeastern High School.

Chillicothe finishes the season with a record of 8 wins and 10 losses in head coach Anthony Gordon's second season with the Lady Cavs. They return almost their whole team next season as Emma Barnes and Emma Fromm are the only two seniors on this season's squad. Returning for Chillicothe will be Harding, along with fellow starters Paige Huggins, Avery Erslan, Caroline Corcoran, and Avery Cox, along with Kiera Archer and Kendra Allen, who provided great minutes for the Lady Cavs all season long.

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