- Greg Billing Contributing Writer
It’s not unusual for teams to hold something back — keep a few plays in reserve to give opponents a different look — the first time through the conference schedule.
But when Tecumseh and Shawnee’s girls basketball teams meet Wednesday, it’s no holds barred.
The Central Buckeye Conference Kenton Trail Division co-leaders will be meeting for the first time. And they play again Saturday. And don’t forget about Kenton Ridge (11-7, 8-3 CBC), which is not out of the race yet.
“It’s so late in the season, everyone knows everything about each other,” Tecumseh coach Danielle Thomas said about not holding anything back Wednesday. “Shawnee is always tough and always physical. They’re scrappy and they don’t quit. Shawnee is one that’s dangerous.”
Tecumseh (14-5 overall, 9-1 CBC Kenton Trail) has won three of the last five Kenton Trail division titles. The Arrows enter Wednesday’s game at Shawnee with two of the CBC’s top four scores in juniors Corinne Thomas (league-leading 25.6 points per game) and Presley Griffitts (21.9). Juniors Mackenzie Pauley (8.7) and Macy Berner (7.3) are also key contributors.
Shawnee (13-4, 9-1) has three players hovering near double digits with seniors Olivia Potts (9.4), Lizzie Weaver (8.4) and Emily Lord (7.8).
The CBC race is a sprint to the finish. The past two weeks, though, have felt more like a marathon for Tecumseh. The Arrows will be playing their ninth game in the last 15 days thanks to weather cancelations. Add in the flu and strep-like viruses and Tecumseh has battled more than opponents the past two weeks.
“We just keep grinding,” Thomas said following Tecumseh’s 72-59 win against Mad River division champion Benjamin Logan on Saturday. “We weren’t near 100 percent tonight and I didn’t think we played great. But they fought hard and never quit.”
Thomas anticipates the Arrows will be near full strength for the Braves. That will be key considering Tecumseh employs a high-energy, full-court press that helps force 16 turnovers per game that can be physically draining.
Tecumseh’s last game was a 58-41 loss to Centerville on Monday. Shawnee’s last game was a 48-46 victory against Jonathan Alder on Saturday.
“I think I would look forward to (the stretch run) more if all of them were healthy,” Thomas said. “That makes it tough when you’re already mentally and physically tired, then you’re sick on top of it. Kids love to play games at this point. They’re tired of practicing.”
Thomas doesn’t mean for it to sound like an excuse because she knows other teams have been hit hard by illness, too. But fatigue and tired legs played a part in Tecumseh’s 49-48 overtime upset loss to Alter (5-12) last Thursday. Bad weather also had the Arrows arriving home about an hour later than normal following the cautious drive back from Jonathan Alder the night before.
“My kids were sicker than dogs. It is what it is,” Thomas said. “They were just exhausted that game.”
The loss could hurt the Arrows when the Division I sectional tournament seeds are voted on by coaches on Sunday. Beavercreek, Centerville, Fairmont, Lebanon, Springboro and Wayne are among the top teams competing with Tecumseh for a high seed.
“We’ve been talking about that. I don’t know how much the loss to Alter will hurt us because that was completely unexpected,” Thomas said. “It happened when you’re going through a grind like this. It’s not a league game but it could hurt us come tournament time.”
For now, the Arrows are focused on the CBC title. Tecumseh averages a CBC-best 74.2 points per game and is second in defense at 39.8. Shawnee averages 48.3 points and league-best 39.1 defensively.
Kenton Ridge, which beat Tecumseh 56-48 on Jan. 6, plays at Tecumseh on Feb. 7 in the regular-season finale. Shawnee finishes CBC play with Bellefontaine the same night.
“A battle,” Thomas called the two-game showdown with Shawnee. “It’ll be a test. It’s awesome what they’re doing this year. We want the competition.”