Derrick Webb, Staff Writer
GREENFIELD — In his postgame interview, McClain coach Jarrod Haines said it best.
“You win games at the free throw and you lose games at the free throw line.”
On Wednesday, in a Frontier Athletic Conference battle with Chillicothe, Haines’ Tigers added another mark to the win column because of their performance at the charity stripe.
Altogether, McClain shot 20-of-26 from the line, paving the way to a 55-44 win.
“We’ve definitely been good at the free throw line this season,” Haines said. “The last time out, against Fairfield, wasn’t our best showing. But we’re back in school and back in a routine. I’ve got confidence in each kid that steps to the line. You can win games from there and you can lose games from there and today, the case was we won a game from there.”
The win came on Senior Night for the Tigers (8-1, 3-0 FAC) and as you might expect, it was senior-laden.
Although Chillicothe (1-1, 0-1 FAC) gave McClain all it wanted and more, in the end, the Tigers’ seniors banded together and used experience to pocket a victory.
“We stayed calm. I thought Emma Stegbauer did a great job of keeping our composure. She never looked like she was worried. When you have senior guards out there and senior post players who have the ball, you’re in good shape,” Haines said. “I couldn’t be more tickled with my seniors to go out like that.”
Stegbauer and fellow senior Bri Weller were impressive throughout the contest. Those two scored McClain’s first nine points, giving the Tigers a 9-2 lead with 2:50 left in the first quarter.
By the start of the second, thanks to scores from Weller and Josie Crabtree, McClain had a 15-8 advantage.
But in that second frame, Chillicothe’s Emma Barnes and Jacey Harding led a 6-0 run to cut McClain’s lead to 15-14. With 2:49 left, the Cavaliers took their first lead at 22-20 thanks to a breakaway lay-in from Harding.
Harding then hit the Cavaliers’ only triple of the night, pushing the lead to 25-20 before Weller and Stegbauer linked up to close the gap at 27-27 heading into halftime.
In the third, Harding scored three straight times to give Chillicothe a 35-29 advantage with 4:36 left — the Cavaliers’ largest lead of the evening. But McClain stayed the course and, thanks to Kyla Burchett, Weller and Stegbauer, took back the lead at 38-36 with 1:35 remaining.
Two free throws from Payton Pryor made it a 40-36 score heading into the final eight minutes.
Stegbauer started the fourth with two free throws, making it 42-36, before Burchett took over. The senior guard scored twice in a row to make it a 46-40 ballgame. She then hit a triple, producing the dagger, for a 49-40 score with 2:37 left.
Later, with 1:52 remaining, senior Jaelyn Pitzer was fouled on a 3-point attempt. She hit all three freebies, pushing the lead to 52-42 before the Tigers put away an 11-point win.
“Kyla made a couple big shots for us and that 3 was huge,” Haines said. “And going up to the foul line and shooting three free throws is super tough. Those three were huge. I looked at my coaching staff and told them that. We did a good job of handling Chillicothe’s pressure. But hats off to Anthony Gordon and Chillicothe. They’re going to beat some teams. They’re talented.”
Burchett and Weller both ended the night with 15 points while Stegbauer added 12 points and three assists. Pryor also helped out, scoring four points and bringing down nine rebounds.
For Chillicothe, Harding and Barnes each finished with 17 points while Barnes added seven rebounds and two assists to the stat sheet. Avery Erslan also helped out with six points and six boards.
The Cavaliers are back in action on Thursday, traveling to Fairfield Christian, while McClain gets back to work on Saturday, making a trip to Washington.
“Super proud of this group,” Haines said. “We’ve had two really good days of practice since the loss to Fairfield and I think I saw the improvement here tonight. We need to keep at it, handling some pressure out front. So we’ve got to keep having good practices and see what we can do.”
Chillicothe: 8-19-9-8 — 44
McClain: 15-12-13-15 — 55
Chillicothe: 19-43 FG, 5-8 FT, 1-6 3pt., 14 rebounds (Barnes 7), 17 turnovers, 8 assists (Harding 3). Scoring: Barnes 17, Harding 17, Erslan 6, Huggins 4.
McClain: 16-45 FG, 20-26 FT, 3-12 3pt., 26 rebounds (Pryor 9), 17 turnovers, 10 assists (Stegbauer 3). Scoring: Burchett 15, Weller 15, Stegbauer 12, Pryor 4, Crabtree 4, Pitzer 3, Vanzant 2.