BLUFFTON — At the end of the third quarter of Monday’s quarterfinal game in the SCHSL 3A girls basketball state playoffs, the momentum was all in favor of the Manning girls basketball team.
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The Lady Monarchs’ press was flustering May River’s usually reliable guards, leading to one easy bucket after another as the Sharks’ comfortable 14-point halftime lead dwindled to four.
May River was able to settle down though and solve the press, holding off the Lady Monarchs for a 63-55 win and claiming a spot in the Lower State championship game.
The Sharks frustrated the Lady Monarchs early, building a 16-8 lead after one quarter and holding all-state post player Myisha Smiling to one field goal and four points in the first half. Meanwhile, May River’s all-state player, Emma Peluso, thrived. She scored 12 of her team-high 18 points while leading the Sharks to a 36-22 halftime advantage.
The Lady Monarchs finally heated up in the third quarter, as La’tavius Wilson scored half of her team-high 18 points in the period, Smiling got more involved in the offense, and Tajabreonca Dow drained a pair of 3-point baskets to help Manning claw within 49-45 heading to the fourth quarter.
“Our girls felt a little too comfortable,” May River head coach Jermaine Bigham said. “In that third quarter, Manning had to come out here fighting and they did a great job of creating some turnovers. Going into the fourth quarter, we knew the game was a lot tighter, so we needed to be a lot more careful with our decision making.”
May River’s senior guards took over in the final period, finding ways around Manning’s press that led to layups or trips to the foul line. Gracyn Drury scored six of her 12 points in the fourth, including four straight free throws to help seal the win, and Chynna Sneed scored a key bucket with a minute left to cap a 13-point effort.
Manning’s Measha Jones drove to the basket for the last of her 11 points to cut it to 59-55 with 1:25 left, and Peluso had a bank shot from the lane pop in and out to give the Lady Monarchs a chance to cut it to a one-possession game. They were unable to convert and Sneed’s bucket at the other end pushed the margin to six.
The Monarchs, who finished the season with a 19-6 record, advanced to the quarterfinals of the playoffs for the first time since 2017. The Sharks, who are 19-6, advanced to their first Lower State final and face top-ranked Marion at 2 p.m. on Saturday at Florence Center.
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