Brock Netter, Staff Writer
CHILLICOTHE — Big games provide big spotlights and that’s when you count on your best players to get the job done.
Unioto’s Cree Stulley waited until the second half to make her presence known on Tuesday, but when she did, it was more than Southeastern could handle.
After being held scoreless in the first two quarters, the senior forward poured in 13 second half points, leading the Shermans (10-2, 6-0 SVC) to a 47-39 victory over Southeastern (9-3, 5-1 SVC) — one that allowed the team to claim sole possession of first place in the conference.
“This is a great team win, but we have to keep this momentum going,” Stulley said. “We have to continue playing tough and playing with a ‘We have everything to lose’ mentality. We need to play every game the way we ended this one from the very start.”
Nothing about the game, at any juncture, was smooth.
It was filled with turnovers, missed shots and physical play. But that’s everything you expect from a clash of the SVC’s best.
Southeastern’s defense caused havoc early as it forced Unioto into turnovers. That translated into points on the other end as the Shermans couldn’t match the energy and hustle of Skylar Hice on the glass.
Hice out-rebounded the Shermans 5-0 to start the game and the Panthers led 12-4 after a triple from Cidney Huff. But when Hice picked up her second foul early, the Shermans took advantage. Emily Coleman and Amber Cottrill drilled back-to-back 3’s to trim the lead to 12-10 after the first.
The turnovers piled up in the second quarter, causing both teams to completely lose offensive rhythms. The Panthers committed nine turnovers to the Shermans’ six before SE’s Sierra Mitten nailed a runner to produce an 18-18 tie at halftime.
In the third, with Unioto ahead 26-23, Avery Miller received a pass from Stulley and buried a triple to give the Shermans their biggest lead of the night at 29-23.
“I’m not a big 3-point shooter. I don’t take shots from there very often,” Miller said. “But when I do, they usually go in which helps my confidence and gives me a boost.”
The Panthers countered with 3’s from Mitten and Macie Graves, tying the game before later taking a 32-31 lead.
However, that’s when Stulley started to get going, sinking back-to-back buckets, followed by a rebound and put back from Coleman to put Unioto on top at 37-32 going into the fourth.
The Shermans continued to call Stulley’s number as the senior scored multiple times at the rim to put the Panthers on their heels with time ticking away.
Stulley’s offensive night extended to the free throw line where she calmly sank one dagger after another until the final buzzer, preserving the Shermans’ victory.
“Amber was getting some great passes to me and I finally decided to finish them in the second half,” Stulley said with a laugh. “I played much tougher which I think helped me a little bit. I also hit my free throws, which was great to see.
“We knew this was going to be a really tough game and we handled the pressure pretty well, especially our guards. They took really good care of the ball and pressured the ball on the defensive side just as well. [Southeastern’s] Sierra Mitten is a great guard and she handled the pressure really well, but Emily and Amber handled everything really well, too.”
Cottrill finished with a team-high 14 points and five assists to lead Unioto while Stulley followed with 13 points and five rebounds. Miller added 11 points and eight rebounds of her own, and Coleman had nine points.
Mitten finished with a game-high 15 points for Southeastern while Hice added seven points and 10 rebounds. Huff had eight points and Macie Graves ended the night with six points.
Both teams return to the floor in SVC action on Thursday. Unioto hosts Paint Valley while Southeastern travels to Adena.
Unioto: 10-8-19-10 — 47
Southeastern: 12-6-14-7 — 39
Unioto: 16-30 FG, 10-16 FT, 5-12 3pt., 16 rebounds (Miller 8), 16 turnovers, 9 assists (Cottrill 5). Scoring: Cottrill 14, Stulley 13, Miller 11, Coleman 9.
Southeastern: 9-24 FG, 16-25 FT, 5-9 3pt., 19 rebounds (Hice 10), 23 turnovers, 4 assists. Scoring: Mitten 15, Huff 8, Graves 6, Hice 6, Bales 3.