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MILLERSBURG -- A combination of nerves and intense defense by the hosting West Holmes Knights led to a lethal combination for the Muskies of John Glenn in the Div. II Sectional final Saturday in the Dungeon at West Holmes.
The Knights forced the Muskies into more turnovers (eight) in the first quarter than shots from the floor, tossing a shutout through the opening eight minutes en route to a 45-28 triumph.
"They forced us into running out offense a little higher than we're used to," John Glenn coach David Kirby said. "Also, I hate to say it, we were a little off our game in terms of emotions. They knew what was at stake. Playing a good team on the road in their place, for the sectional championship. These guys hadn't ever played for a championship before.
"The reality of it is, we were a bit nervous," the coach continued. "When you're out there, you're aware of what's at stake. We made some uncharacteristic mistakes. At the same time, they caused a little of that, too. They guard differently probably than most of the teams we play. They were out on us and physical and made us start a little higher with our offense."
While West Holmes was playing some great defense, the 19-4 Knights were not much better than their guests on the offensive end, misfiring on several shots from in close in the first quarter, yet still managing to build a 10-0 lead after the opening eight minutes, thanks to an enormous effort by senior post Kacie Leppla, who yanked down nine offensive rebounds to give the hosts several second-chance scoring opportunities.
"She's like 5-8 going up against 6-1 and she was still cleaning up the glass," West Holmes Coach Lisa Ogi said of Leppla, who finished with 11 points and 10 rebounds. "In every game we've seen, they're typically a good rebounding team, but I think our defensive pressure caused some problems. They didn't get many shots off. Kasie's rebounding was superb."
The Knights hadn't played in 16 days and there were plenty of signs of rust.
"We scrimmaged against guys, tried to stay fresh by practicing a few days then taking a day off, but I think we were ready to play against somebody else," Ogi said. "We were tired of being together and wanted to go take it out on somebody else."
With Kacie banging away inside, her twin sister Kylie Leppla hit a triple to give the Knights a 16-0 lead before Madison Hunter split a pair of free throws to finally get the Muskies on the board midway through the second quarter.
A pair of 3-point bombs by Celeste Ryman helped the Knights open up a 23-9 lead at the half.
"We were down 14 at the half and only gave up 45 points to a pretty good team," Kirby said. "If we can keep it to 45, I thought we'd have a chance."
Kaylor Perone's 3-pointer stopped the Muskies' short run in the fourth quarter, when two 3-pointers by Hunter and a jumper by Lyndi Slack pulled the guests within 10, 36-26, midway through the final frame.
"We made a little run there in the fourth quarter where we cut it to 10, but they came down and hit that 3 they're a good team," Kirby added. "There's nothing I can say that would take away from that. West Holmes is where they're at for a reason."
John Glenn, which bows out of the tournament with an 11-13 record was led by Hunter's 13 points.
Ryman led the West Holmes offensive with 16 points, including three 3-pointers.
"It was good to see her hit some shots," Ogi said. "We shot the ball four times before it went in for us. We've got to have some shots fall for us."
The Knights made good on 12 of 41 shots from the field, including six of 14 3-pointers. The Muskies managed 8 of 23 shots from the floor, turning it over 24 times.
John Glenn made 2 of 11 from 3-point range.