XENIA — The scoreboard didn’t show it, but both coaches knew it.
The host Xenia Buccaneers played what their coach described as their “best game of the season,” in a 60-28 loss to a very talented Legacy Christian Academy girls high school basketball team, Jan. 28 at Xenia High.
“I know that if you go on the Greater Western Ohio Conference’s website and look at our record, it looks as if we haven’t done very well,” Xenia coach Jamie Hand said. “But I couldn’t be more proud of these girls. Good teams always improve as the year goes on. Obviously, we’re not a good team in terms of our record. But if you’re improving as a team, you can see improvements throughout the whole year. This is what, our 18th game? And for us to play that well against that team? Mark has a great team. They’re legit, and for us to come out and play the way we did against a very well-coached team, I’m very proud of how we played.”
Legacy Christian’s only two losses this season have come on the road to Waynesville and Alter. They’re 15-2 overall, and atop the Metro Buckeye Conference with an 8-0 record. They average 55.5 points a game while holding opponents to 29.5. They’re good.
But the visiting Knights were clinging to a 15-10 lead after the first quarter of play.
LCA upped the defensive pressure in the second quarter, however, and the Knights parlayed seven Xenia turnovers into a 17-3 second quarter and a 32-13 lead at the half.
Emily Riddle led the Knights with 19 points, Emily Hess finished with 16, Matthews added eight points and Leach tossed in seven. The Knights had scored the second most 3-pointers in a girls high school basketball game in state history earlier this season with 21 in a romp over Miami Valley. With a game-plan that emphasized passing and ball control, LCA still drained eight threes in Monday night’s win.
“We didn’t practice Saturday, and obviously we didn’t practice on Sunday. So early on, I think we showed some signs of rust shooting the ball,” LCA coach Mark Combs said. “We took a lot of outside shots, but they weren’t falling. But I thought our defensive press helped us come up with some easier buckets. When you start seeing it go through the hoop a few times, your confidence goes up with it.”
Combs used a common opponent — Greeneview — as a measuring stick to show Xenia’s improvement. On Dec. 17, LCA defeated Greeneview in Jamestown by a 49-32 margin. Xenia opened the season in Jamestown and got blown out, 79-18. Seeing that the Bucs held their own for much of Monday night’s game with Combs’ Knights was all he needed to see to realize that the Bucs are vastly improved this season.
“Early in the year, Jamie was working with a group of kids who were just getting familiar with playing varsity high school basketball together. Tonight you can see the improvement. Number 21 (Brynna Mardis) and 10 (Kamea Baker) both shot the ball well, he’s got some good athletes on the team. From Xenia’s perspective, I’m sure it’s not fun playing in that league (the Greater Western Ohio Conference), but being in that league, against that level of competition, it ultimately helps them improve. … I think they’re young enough that they’re going to continue to get better and better and better.”
Mardis led the Bucs (1-18, 1-11 GWOC South) with 17 points, 15 of which came from 3-point range, Baker finished with nine points and Haley McManus had Xenia’s other score. Xenia plays at Trotwood-Madison next, a 3 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 2 game in Trotwood.
LCA hosts Carlisle for a 6 p.m. game on Tuesday, Jan. 29 for its next game.
Contact John Bombatch at 937-372-4444, Ext. 2123.