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Creek girls claim first district title

Kiger's 19, late scoring run lifts Redskins over West Holmes, 53-43

The Indian Creek girls basketball team celebrates winning the Division II East 2 district title over West Holmes on Saturday. -Joe Catullo

WINTERSVILLE — When West Holmes took a one-point lead to begin the fourth quarter on Saturday, the pressure was on for Indian Creek, who was competing in its second district final and first since 2010.

This was not like two years ago when the Redskins lost by double figures in the sectional round, or even last season on a buzzer-beating shot. This time, they never panicked or caved in.

With the help of everyone, Indian Creek arguably played its best ball ever under head coach Steve Eft in the fourth quarter to hoist its first Division II district title in program history, 53-43.

“This is their last game on this floor, win or lose. We just said to leave it all out there, go out there and take this win. They weren’t going to give it to us,” Eft said regarding what he told his team early in the fourth.

“(West Holmes) went on a nice run there. We definitely had to regroup, and luckily the girls responded. It was kind of back and forth there for a while. But, the girls did a nice job of regrouping and closing the game out.”

Senior Kylie Kiger and others pour water over head coach Steve Eft following the victory. -Joe Catullo

Following a 28-21 Creek advantage at halftime, the Knights (19-5) utilized an 11-3 scoring run to take a 32-31 lead midway through the third, then trailed by two (39-37) heading into the final stanza.

An early 3-pointer gave West Holmes a 40-39 advantage before Creek (19-3) ended on a lengthy 16-3 outburst.

When asked about what the difference in the second half was, Eft had a simple answer.

“Kylie Kiger,” he said with confidence. “She got hot in the second half. She caught it in rhythm, got a couple of clean looks and knocked them down. It was a big-time performance from her.

“She really doesn’t get a lot of room when we play other teams. Everybody’s been face-guarding her in the second half of this season, so she had to battle through that. She’s always there; it’s just can she get the clean looks? She stayed with it, focused on the game and took advantage of the situation.”

Indian Creek's five seniors received the district championship from board member Angie Forte. -Joe Catullo

Kiger started the last scoring run with a pair of close-range shots, both assisted by Taylor Jones. Kiger later hit a couple of key free throws and finished with a game-high 19 points (three 3-pointers, 4 of 4 from the foul line), along with two rebounds and four assists. A dozen of those points came in the second half.

“They were face-guarding me all game. When they triple-teamed Taylor, I would just go, be wide open and had to be ready to shoot,” Kiger said. “I don’t get a lot of space, so as soon as I get the ball, I have to be ready.

“This means everything to me. Our team has been working so hard for this because this is what we wanted all season.”

Jones drew a lot of attention after her 30-point double-double effort in the semifinal Thursday against Steubenville. On Saturday, she powered her way to 15 points, four boards and five dimes.

“Taylor’s been having some monster games. She had 30 on Thursday, so teams really have to pay attention to her now,” Eft said. “That has helped free Kylie up, especially (Saturday).

Taylor Jones was one of the first to cut down the net during Indian Creek's final home game of the season. -Joe Catullo

“Really, all five of our seniors played unbelievable. (Hailey) Clark’s always getting it done on defense. (Abigail) Starkey gave us great minutes off the bench. It was a total team effort, and that’s what makes this group really special. They played together and got the job done.”

Clark finished with nine points, five rebounds, five assists and at least six steals. Abby Copeland and Starkey played well defensively once again. Makenzie Taylor added eight points and six boards.

“This feels amazing. We literally have been working for this forever,” Taylor said. “We had to do it this year. There was more adrenaline this time (compared to the first matchup) and more excitement because it was for the district title.

“We all just work so well together. When they start guarding Kylie and Taylor, we all have to step up. When one of us gets shut down, everybody else has to step up.”

The Redskins bested the Knights, 43-31, on Jan. 18 in Millersburg. Both squads said there were few differences from that night to Saturday.

Indian Creek's Makenzie Taylor, left, Hailey Clark and Kylie Kiger begin to celebrate following the final buzzer. -Joe Catullo

“I feel like it was a very similar game both times. We were fortunate enough to play them already and tried to make a few adjustments,” West Holmes head coach Lindsy Snyder said. “They got after it, made their shots down the road and forced us into some turnovers.

“We had our sparks. They went on runs, and we went on runs. Their runs were just a little longer and better than ours. They’re a good team, and they outlasted us for 32 minutes.”

Creek jumped to a 10-5 lead in the first quarter before West Holmes ended on an 8-2 run and led, 13-12, after one. The Redskins matched that with an 8-2 of their own in the second frame for a seven-point halftime advantage.

During the 16-3 fourth-quarter run, Jones hit a layup following Kiger’s two goals. Clark stole another pass and finished it strong with a layup of her own. Taylor was fouled constantly. The defense forced more turnovers (21 overall, 15 in the first half) and bad shot attempts.

“We were just staying calm. Yes, it’s a little scary because you’re in the district final, but you just always have to be ready to come back,” Kiger said.

“Honestly, we thought we had it since the beginning (of the contest). That’s how you have to go into games. You have to go in thinking you’re going to win. When we were up by seven at halftime, we started feeling really good.”

For the Knights, Katie Sprang led with 13 points (10 in the first half), four rebounds and two assists. Katrina Rolince had eight points and three boards off the bench. Ella McMillen produced seven points and six rebounds, while Alicia Alexander chipped in five points, five boards and a pair of dimes.

EARLY SHOWER

Kiger initiated a plan of attack after the game while her head coach was being interviewed. Her and the rest of the squad retrieved to their bench, grabbed water bottles and poured them all over Eft.

“It was a nice surprise. I love coaching this group,” he said while wearing the game net around his neck. “They’re a great group of kids. They’ve been a joy to coach these past three years, and hopefully we can keep this going.”

UP NEXT

Indian Creek tentatively has a date with Thornville Sheridan at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday in Zanesville to open the regional tournament.

“I’m going to try to enjoy this for a couple of hours, then I’ll start breaking down film on Sheridan. We still have games to play,” Eft said.

Indian Creek 53, West Holmes 43

West Holmes 13 8 16 6 — 43

Indian Creek 12 16 11 14 — 53

WEST HOLMES (19-5): Alexander 1 3-4 5; Patterson 1 0-0 3; Rohr 2 0-0 5; E. McMillen 3 0-0 7; Sprang 5 1-2 13; A. McMillen 0 0-0 0; Fair 1 0-0 2; Rolince 3 0-0 8. TOTALS: 16, 4-6: 43.

INDIAN CREEK (19-3): Kiger 6 4-4 19; Taylor 3 2-8 8; Copeland 1 0-0 2; Clark 4 0-2 9; Jones 6 3-3 15; Starkey 0 0-0 0; Anderson 0 0-0 0. TOTALS: 20, 9-17: 53.

3-POINT GOALS: West Holmes 7 (Patterson, Rohr, E. McMillen, Sprang 2, Rolince 2); Indian Creek 4 (Kiger 3, Clark). REBOUNDS: West Holmes 30 (E. McMillen 6); Indian Creek 17 (Taylor 6). ASSISTS: West Holmes 14 (Patterson 5); Indian Creek 16 (Clark 5, Jones 5). TURNOVERS: West Holmes 21; Indian Creek 15.

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