By John Bombatch
TIPP CITY — There are just days when you play your best and end up losing to an opponent who just played a little bit better than you did. Such is what happened Saturday morning when Miami Valley ended Cedarville’s exciting season with a 61-43 defeat in the Division III district title game at Tippecanoe High School.
“I just told the girls: ‘Listen. At some point, you have to tip your hat when the other team plays a great game,’” Cedarville coach Chad Mason said. “And they played a great game. They did some things today that when we scouted them and saw them, they weren’t able to do those things. But that’s okay. I mean, to win district titles, you have to play better. Sometimes you have to play over your head. I tip my cap to Miami Valley, they played a great game.”
Mason credited his players for playing well, but said the team as a whole just didn’t shoot the ball well.
“You have to shoot well when you get to this level, and it just didn’t happen for us today,” Mason said. “I tell the kids that you have to treat each tournament game like it’s Life or Death … but it’s not. It’s a game that we played really well all season. We’ll be okay.”
Izzy Bolender scored a game-high 24 points and Hayley Melton scored 11 points to go along with 13 rebounds and two blocked shots, but Miami Valley (23-3) showed more balance with a trio of players scoring in double figures and another finishing with nine points.
Tia Karras led the Rams with a 17-point game, her twin sister Elea and Alyssa Clements both scored 13 points, and Sarah Campbell finished with nine for Miami Valley.
The Rams had been the district runners up for the past three seasons. The win is the school’s first-ever district title.
“Our kids were in this game last year and we came up short,” said Miami Valley coach Randy Duff. “They remembered that and they really wanted it. They followed our scouting report to a ‘T’ and, my goodness, they just played their hearts out.”
“We knew Cedarville was a very good team. We just focused on our defense and tried to figure out how to stop them. They’ve got some tremendous players. We played good defense, found some good shots and just made things happen.”
Miami Valley set the game’s tone early on when the Rams jumped out to a 22-7 lead after one quarter of play. The only Indians points in the quarter were scored by Bolender (five) and point guard Maggie Coe (two).
Cedarville stayed with the Rams in the second quarter but couldn’t gain any ground on the scoreboard and trailed 35-19 a the break.
Miami Valley then outscored Cedarville by a 12-7 margin in the third quarter to pull away for good.
Cedarville ends the season with a 21-5 record. They’d set the school mark for most wins in a season, which had previously been held by a 1988 Indians team. Last week’s sectional title was also the school’s first in 28 years.
“There’s no way that I’m going to hang my head and be disappointed after the kind of season we had,” Mason said. “When the shock of the loss wears off, we’re going to be able to look back and we’re going to have a ton of pride in what we’ve accomplished this season. With the majority of girls we have coming back, there’s no reason we can’t expect to have another great season that will get us back here next year.”
Cedarville seniors Courtney Cyphers, Sidney Ryman and Lilly Thurlow played their final games for the Indians.