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An up and down night

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Connersville Middle School seventh-grader Hailey Sembach sails to the basket for a lay-up in the third quarter of CMS’ contest against Franklin County, Thursday evening inside the Spartan Arena. The game was CMS’ final of the season, and it was won by the girls red team, 26-24.
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Connersville Middle School eighth-grader Madison Atchley (12) battles on the floor for a loose ball against Franklin County inside the Spartan Arena on Thursday evening, while teammate Bailey Spurlock, left, looks on. Playing their final game of the season, Atchley, Spurlock and the Lady Spartans suffered a 40-12 setback to the Lady Wildcats.

By GRADY TATE - gtate@newsexaminer.com

The Connersville Middle School seventh- and eighth-grade girls red basketball teams ended their 2018-19 seasons on contrasting notes, Thursday night inside Spartan Arena.

Hosting Franklin County, the two ends wound up with a split decision.

In the seventh-grade contest, the Connersville girls stormed back from a halftime deficit, using a strong defensive effort in the second half to secure a 26-24 victory.

The eighth-grade girls were unable to follow and build on that momentum, however, falling to the Lady Wildcats 40-12.

“We really struggled with the fundamentals tonight,” eight-grade coach Jay King said. “The ladies just struggled.”

Indeed.

The Lady Spartans were guilty of 25 turnovers in the game, the miscues a major hurdle in establishing anything on the offensive end of the court.

“Turnovers were hard to overcome in this game,” King confirmed. “I think the girls were a little nervous in their final home game.”

CMS trailed 5-0 after one quarter, and 15-7 at the halftime break.

The Lady Wildcats would put the game away in the third, outscoring their hosts 13-2 in the frame to take a 27-8 lead into the final frame.

“We came out flat in the second half, and were unable to execute,” King said.

Sara Ruble scored nine of Connersville’s dozen points to lead the Spartans in that column.

Franklin County was led by Kassidy Schell (15 points) and Josie Rolfes (13).

In spite of the loss (4-12 for the season), King heaped high praise for his players, both for this game and for the entire season.

“Lydia Powell played aggressive, with good defense and rebounding,” he said. “Amy Rowe continued her hustle and tenacity in rebounding and overall play. Maddie Atchley had strong play in the paint and led the team in rebounds.

“Katie Mitchell was aggressive and had several looks at the basket, but couldn’t get her shots to fall. Baylie Spurlock had the hustle award for the night. Abbie Schwartz battled some pain and held her own in the paint. Kerstin Ellis quietly did her best to help the team through defense, ball handling and rebounding.”

He also handed out a pat on the back to his team manager.

“Sophia Butcher served as the team manager this year and was such a positive part of the season for the team,” he said. “It was a joy to have all the girls on the team this year and I reminded them after the game that we were undefeated in all our wins.”

Turnovers nearly cost the seventh-grade unit as well, as the team wound up giving the ball away 17 times in the game. Helping the team cover that, however, was the fact that Connersville forced FC into turning the ball over 21 times.

“Tonight’s win was a great example of the girls fighting for each and every ball,” Connersville seventh-grade coach Don Crum said. 

A lot of that fight originated beneath the basket he pointed out.

“We had our best rebounding performance of the season and it allowed us to convert a lot of offensive opportunities,” he said.

Trailing 12-7 at halftime, the Lady Spartans battled through the third quarter to move in front 16-14. By the four-minute mark in the fourth quarter, Connersville had put together a 16-2 run, pushing the lead to 24-18.

“I think a lot of that was the fact that we made some adjustments at halftime and went to a man defense,” Crum said. “Once we did that, it took Franklin County out of what it wanted to do on the offensive end.”

The Wildcat girls would make a good game of it, however. Kenna Bell’s basket cut CMS’ lead to 24-22 with 1:17 left in the game.

The visitors could draw no closer, however, and the Spartans would pick up their sixth win of the season (6-10).

Taylor Watkins led all scorers in the game with 12 points. McKenna Lucas was a force on the boards, finishing with 14 rebounds.

Franklin County was led by Chloe Clark with 10 points. She was followed by Crystal Calihan with eight.

“Words cannot say how proud we are of this team of young ladies,” Crum said of his charges. “They started the season with very little basketball seasoning and they worked hard all season on their fundamentals and understanding of the game.

“We will miss their enthusiasm and love of life. It was impossible to be around them for more than few moments and not smile.”

CONNERSVILLE MIDDLE SCHOOL RED

Eighth-grade game

LADY WILDCATS 40 LADY SPARTANS 12

(at Spartan Arena)

Franklin County 5 15 28 – 40

Connersville Red 0 6 8 – 12

Franklin County — Kiersten Schell 2, Kassidy Schell 15, Allyson Andre 4, Josie Rolfes 13, Lauren Stacy 4, Makayla Shepard 1, Maegan Pearson 1, Kamryn Dozier 0.

Connersville (4-12) — Abbie Schwartz 0, Amy Rowe 0, Madison Atchley 0, Sara Ruble 9, Baylie Spurlock 0, Lydia Powell 0, Kendra Boyd 2, Kylie Linn 1, Katie Mitchell 0, Kerstin Ellis 0.

3-pointers — Franklin County 4 (Ka. Schell 2, Rolfes 2). Total fouls — Franklin County 10 (Ki. Schell 2, Shepard 2, Rolfes 2, Ka. Schell, Andre, Stacy, Pearson), Connersville 21 (Powell 4, Linn 4, Schwartz 3, Spurlock 3, Ruble 2, Boyd 2, Rowe, Atchley, Mitchell).

Seventh-grade game

LADY SPARTANS 26, LADY WILDCATS 24

Franklin County 4 12 14 – 24

Connersville Red 2 7 16 – 26

Franklin County — Crystal Calihan 8, Kenna Bell 0, Kristen Ison 4, Karlie Jones 0, Savanna Stringer 0, Jacy Grimmeissen 2, Kendal Cain 0, Chloe Clark 10, McKensee Ferman 0, Bella Lee 0. 

Connersville (6-10) — Dusti Davis 0, Hana Hobbs 3, Taylor Watkins 12, Hailey Sembach 4, Graci Sparks 0, Paige Bennett 3, McKenna Lucas 2, Karleigh Westerfield 2, Rayliegh Bresher 0, Aubrey Hunt 0, Megan Rowe 0.

3-pointers — Connersville 1 (Bennett). Total fouls — Franklin County 17 (Grimmeissen 3, Cain 3, Calihan 2, Bell 2, Ison 2, Clark 2, Lee 2, Stringer 1), Connersville 12 (Sembach 3, Sparks 3, Davis 2, Hobbs, Watkins, Bennett, Lucas).