Derrick Webb, Staff Writer
BAINBRIDGE — “It’s not the size of the dog in the fight but rather the size of the fight in the dog.”
Paint Valley junior Olivia Smith stands at just 5-foot-6. But you can’t measure the amount of fight she has in her. That number doesn’t register on the charts.
Nearly three weeks after breaking the program record for rebounds in a single season, coming into Saturday’s contest against Manchester, Smith needed 13 to break the SVC and Ross County record.
She hit that mark and then some.
Smith snagged 16 rebounds, which included her 366th of the season to surpass Huntington’s Terri Haines, who set the previous mark of 365 during the 1978-1979 season. That performance helped Paint Valley (15-8) hand Manchester a 55-38 loss in a Division IV sectional final.
The Bearcats now have their first sectional crown since 2011 and Smith now has 369 rebounds … and counting.
“Every single night, Olivia Smith brings heart, intensity and is driven by herself,” Paint Valley coach Tristan Norman said. “Those are the kind of players that every team needs. At the end of the day, you can say it and you can preach it, but if they don’t want it bad enough, it isn’t going to happen. That’s what rebounding is about. It’s all ‘I want it more than they do.’”
While Smith cleaned the glass, Paint Valley’s Abbi Stanforth was outstanding as well.
The junior guard not only scored a game-high 19 points but she answered the call to guard Manchester’s Brooke Keenedy, a 6-foot Thomas More College commit that came in averaging over 18 points per game.
Stanforth held Kennedy to a single-digit scoring total and used her defensive prowess to create transition scoring.
“The game plan against [Kennedy] was the same we’ve had all season. That’s Abbi Stanforth is the girl to get the job done,” Norman said. “Abbi is always going against the other team’s best player. We put her up to that task and she obviously passed. Her effort is just relentless.”
Averi McFadden started the night’s scoring with a three-point play at the 5:27 mark in the first quarter. Manchester answered with a 3 from Emily Sweeney before Stanforh scored her first bucket with 4:41 left. Yasmin Lucas then got on the board for the Greyhounds to tie the score.
With 4:01 remaining, Stanforth buried a triple before logging back-to-back buckets to put the Bearcats ahead 12-8. Kendall Dye then ended the quarter’s scoring with two free throws, putting PV ahead 14-8 after one.
Down 16-10, Kennedy and Karigan Turner cut the lead two with six minutes left. But Dye then took three straight trips to the charity stripe, converting 4-of-6 tries, giving the Bearcats a 20-14 edge.
With 1:49 left, McFadden drained a 3 to make it a 26-16 lead. But Manchester (6-12) ended the half with buckets from Sweeney and Kileigh Mitchell to cut the deficit to 26-21 at the break.
Hanna Uhrig began the third with a triple before Stanforth went coast-to-coast for a 31-21 score. Later, with 3:27 remaining, Smith got a bucket and a foul before Uhrig once again hit a 3 to give the Bearcats a 41-26 advantage. Stanforth then delivered the knockout blow with 56.5 seconds remaining, producing a 44-28 advantage heading to the fourth.
The highlight of the fourth was Smith’s record-breaking rebound, coming around the 3:17 mark. Manchester couldn’t manage to cut the lead to less than 12 as Paint Valley turned its attention towards cutting down the nets.
“We did not want to play Manchester. We knew their record was deceiving with injuries and the season that they’ve been unfortunate to have in some ways,” Norman said. “But the girls buckled down and they were focused. We’ve had a crazy week. But the time we’ve been able to have in the gym, they’ve paid attention and taken everything that we’ve said in stride. They got the job done, first of all, on the defensive end. It was the best defensive game we’ve played.”
Stanforth added four assists to her game-high 19 points while Uhrig added 13 points. Dye ended with nine points and seven boards and Smith tacked on seven points to her 16 rebounds.
Sweeney led the Greyhounds with eight points and three rebounds while Kennedy totaled six points and a team-high eight rebounds. Both Sophia Paul and Yasmin Lucas had six points.
While Manchester’s tournament run comes to an end, Paint Valley advances to play in a Division IV district semifinal against No. 3 seed Trimble at 7 p.m., Thursday.
The Tomcats were 63-19 winners over Ironton St. Joe on Saturday. They’ll enter that contest with an overall record of 17-4. Beating them will be a tall order. But Goliath has fallen before.
“If I’m just being honest, we’ve kept our eyes on the prize,” Norman said. “We’ve tried not to look ahead. But we’ll have a good week to prepare. We seem to be finding our mark again. If we can just focus, get everybody on board and have a team effort, anything is possible. We’re going to be ready.”
Manchester: 8-13-7-10 — 38
Paint Valley: 14-12-18-11 — 55
Manchester: 17-45 FG, 1-2 FT, 3-8 3pt., 25 rebounds (Kennedy 8), 22 turnovers, 7 assists (Mitchell 3). Scoring: Sweeney 8, Kennedy 6, Paul 6, Lucas 5, Mitchell 5, Turner 4, Brown 2, Campbell 2.
Paint Valley: 18-49 FG, 12-17 FT, 7-23 3pt., 31 rebounds (Smith 16), 18 turnovers, 11 assists (McFadden 5). Scoring: Stanforth 19, Uhrig 13, Dye 9, Smith 7, McFadden 6, Free 1.