- Rick Cassano Staff Writer
As painful as it was to swallow Thursday night, the defeat may help Franklin High School’s girls basketball team in the long run.
The Wildcats squandered a 13-point lead in the last 10 minutes and fell to visiting Valley View 47-46 in a thriller that marked the beginning of Southwestern Buckeye League Southwestern Division play for both squads.
“It was gut-wrenching and I think the kids took it really hard, but sometimes you learn more from a loss than you do a win,” Franklin coach John Rossi said. “We’ll come back ready to work. That’s the thing about high school sports. If you’ve got kids that are resilient and eager to get back into the gym, it makes it really worth your while.”
Junior guard Layne Ferrell collected 23 points, seven rebounds, four steals and four assists for the Wildcats (1-1), but it was Valley View senior forward Hunter Stidham who stole the show.
Stidham tallied 28 points, including 10 of her team’s 12 points in the last three minutes, as the Spartans (2-0) took an important early step in the Southwestern Division race.
“My team helped me with that. We all did good together,” Stidham said. “It was super exciting, fun to play in. It was a great time.”
It was the second-highest point total of Stidham’s prep career. The Maryville (Mo.) University recruit put up 34 points against Eaton as a freshman.
“We feel like we should’ve been able to close the deal, but Stidham basically took over in the second half,” Rossi said. “She had the eye of the tiger. Big-time players make big-time plays in big games, and she did. She made more plays than we did.”
Valley View trailed 27-19 at halftime and went down by 13 twice (36-23 and 38-25) in the third period.
Chloe Smith marked six of her 10 points in the fourth stanza and Abigail Dickson scored six points for the Spartans, who shot 51.4 percent from the field.
“When you’re starting two freshmen and still come back and win, that’s pretty impressive,” Valley View coach Steve Dickson said. “What I liked is that we didn’t panic and played great defense in the second half, especially against Ferrell. She’s a heck of a player, but we’ve got a pretty good one too. It helps when you’ve got an all-league player like Hunter hitting big shots down the stretch.”
He credited Smith and Aiden Valenti for their defensive work against Ferrell. She had 10 points after intermission, but only one field goal.
Stidham gave the visitors their first lead (45-42) since the opening quarter when she buried a long 3-pointer with 1:22 remaining. Ferrell came up with a steal and a layup 26 seconds later, and she added two free throws with 18.6 seconds left to push Franklin ahead 46-45.
Stidham responded by taking off for a coast-to-coast layup to give Valley View the lead for good.
The Wildcats misfired on a shot in the last 10 seconds. Stidham rebounded, was fouled and missed the front end of the bonus with 6.2 on the clock. Ferrell grabbed the board and sprinted the other way, but couldn’t get a contested jumper to fall as the game ended.
“I was a little nervous,” Stidham said. “I thought we were going to be able to stop her, but she did get pretty deep in the lane.”
Said Rossi, “Everybody in the gym knew she was going to have it, and everybody in blue was covering her.”
Stidham had five rebounds and four steals for the Spartans. Lauren Legate — like Abigail Dickson, a freshman — added five boards and four assists, and Dickson contributed four caroms and three assists.
“We were down nine the other day against Miamisburg late in the game and came back and won,” Steve Dickson said. “I think we do enough of this in practice where we’re not too stressed about it. But I thought for sure when we were down 13, we were in a lot of trouble. You’re not quite in panic mode yet, but one more bucket and you might be.
“I’m really proud of my kids. We’re going to enjoy tonight and get busy again tomorrow.”
Emily Newton marked 10 points and five rebounds for Franklin. Ferrell was 12 of 12 at the foul line.
“Our kids played hard,” Rossi said. “When I look back on it now, I think we were playing a little conservative and playing not to lose instead of looking to expand on our lead. But you’ve also got to give Steve and his kids credit. He does a nice job with his program.”
Valley View will be back in action at Bellbrook on Saturday night. The Wildcats will host Waynesville next Thursday.
Valley View 14-5-10-18—47
VALLEY VIEW (2-0, 1-0 SWBL Southwestern): Abigail Dickson 2 2 6, Aiden Valenti 0 1 1, Chloe Smith 4 2 10, Hunter Stidham 11 3 28, Lauren Legate 1 0 2. Totals: 18-8-47
FRANKLIN (1-1, 0-1 SWBL Southwestern): Kaylee Harris 2 0 4, Emma Bicknell 1 0 2, Layne Ferrell 5 12 23, Emily Newton 5 0 10, Skyler Weir 2 0 5, Brooke Stover 1 0 2. Totals: 16-12-46
3-pointers: V 3 (Stidham 3), F 2 (Weir, Ferrell)