The mood within Middletown Christian School’s girls basketball program remains buoyant, even as the pile of defeats continues to grow.
Sophomore guard Ellie Veal tossed in four 3-pointers and a career-high 16 points for the Eagles on Thursday night, but they took their sixth straight defeat with a 37-29 road loss to Miami Valley at Lane Gymnasium.
“We gave all the glory to God. I just want to say that first,” Veal said. “We always do because He’s the one that protects us through all our games, and we always pray before the games. We always have our heads up and encourage each other, and I just really love that about each and every one of us.
“It’s absolutely fun. Basketball … I love it because it’s a great time to bond with new people who come into the season and old friends. You’re not just teammates. You’re not just friends. You’re family, and that’s what I love best about it.”
The MCS offense has been somewhat anemic all season, and the Eagles suffered through a scoring drought of more than 11 minutes after getting within 24-23 early in the third quarter.
Middletown Christian coach Ken Yablonsky took the good with the not so good and said it was a familiar routine.
“We are not good at putting the ball through the cylinder,” Yablonsky said. “Their grit, their effort, their enthusiasm, their passion for the game is why I enjoy coaching them. We are just not a good shooting team.”
Anna Crawford had 6 points and 10 rebounds, Marissa Lykins contributed 4 points and nine boards, and Veal added eight caroms for the Eagles, who fell to 4-17 overall and 2-10 in the Metro Buckeye Conference.
MCS had the lead only once (7-5), yet showed some scrap after trailing 24-16 at halftime.
A Hannah Sponsel 3-pointer and baskets by Crawford and Veal started the third period. The Eagles’ shooting touch then left the building as the Rams scored the next 13 points to pull away.
Grace Zerba, Myelle Norton and Taylor Felder all marked 10 points for Miami Valley (5-15, 5-7). Norton grabbed 10 rebounds, while Eva Lyon added eight.
“I would say it was below par for us in terms of where we’ve been trending,” Rams coach Steve Roe said of his squad’s performance. “The girls have played seven games in (11) days, so you could see a little bit of fatigue kicking in as well as some of the senior hype that was going on with Senior Night.”
Roe said the Eagles, 49-27 losers to Miami Valley last Saturday, certainly came to play. His team needed to raise its game in the second half and did just that.
“That was part of them understanding that we always have to play at our level of basketball,” Roe said. “Sometimes it’s really difficult to have that consistency when you go from a higher-ranked team to a not-so-ranked team in terms of intensity and style of play. That was the difference you saw in the second half.”
Thursday’s game marked the end of the regular season for the Rams. They are seeded 11th in the Division IV Brookville sectional and will meet either No. 1 Tri-Village or No. 12 Jefferson on Feb. 21 at 7:30 p.m.
Felder and Meghan McDonough are the seniors for Miami Valley. The Rams haven’t fared well in nonconference games, going 0-8 by an average margin of 70-21.
“We inherited quite an aggressive schedule that we chose to take on instead of trying to change it up, and I think the girls will be better for it in the long run,” said Roe, who took over as head coach last July. “We’re still on an upward trend. We’re understanding passing up a good shot for a better shot. We’re understanding our roles on the team.”
Middletown Christian also has two seniors (Jordan Wolfenbarger and Hannah Quigley). Yablonsky said the Eagles are about where he expected to be win-wise after losing Aubriana Bellard and Kayla Arington to transfers, but he believes the future is looking good.
“I think we’ll work hard in the summer to put some things in place, and we’ve got a great eighth-grade class coming up,” Yablonsky said. “These kids aren’t true basketball players. A lot of them are soccer players. A lot of them are kind of on the barter system of, ‘I’ll play basketball if you play soccer.’
“We have a sticker board in the locker room, and we fill that up with hustle, sportsmanship and a positive attitude. We don’t fill it up with a lot of statistical categories, but beyond the statistics, these kids are great. Their Christian testimony is there. I’m happy to be part of it.”
MCS closes the regular season at Twin Valley South next Thursday. The ninth-seeded Eagles will begin D-IV Monroe sectional play Feb. 17 against No. 2 Cedarville at 2 p.m.
Middletown Christian 10-6-7-6—29
Miami Valley 12-12-9-4—37
MIDDLETOWN CHRISTIAN (4-17, 2-10 MBC): Anna Crawford 3 0 6, Marissa Lykins 2 0 4, Hannah Sponsel 1 0 3, Ellie Veal 6 0 16. Totals: 12-0-29
MIAMI VALLEY (5-15, 5-7 MBC): Kristi Campbell 1 0 3, Myelle Norton 5 0 10, Taylor Felder 4 0 10, Grace Zerba 5 0 10, Eva Lyon 2 0 4. Totals; 17-0-37
3-pointers: MC 5 (Veal 4, Sponsel), MV 3 (Felder 2, Campbell)