SIDNEY — Lehman Catholic coach Craig Hall knew how dangerous an opponent the Cavaliers faced Saturday in a Division IV sectional semifinal at Sidney High School — and that appearances were deceiving.
The fourth seed Cavaliers took a 16-6 record into the game with ninth seeded Houston (6-16). And Lehman owned a 45-28 win over the Wildcats earlier this season.
But, this was a very different Houston team — and the Wildcats came away with a 53-50 win in first-round action, ending Lehman’s season.
“Give them (Houston) credit,” Hall said. “He (Brad Allen) always has them ready to play. It just felt like we were overconfident at the start. I told the girls the first four minutes were going to be the key. And it didn’t go well.”
Allen was elated with the win.
“We started the season 0-10,” Allen said. “We are 6-6 in our last 12 games. I am so proud of the girls. They have worked really hard.”
The Wildcats advance to face No. 3 Botkins in a sectional final on Thursday at Sidney.
It was a back-and-forth battle all day.
Lehman led 15-11 after one quarter and 22-21 at halftime before Houston took a 39-37 lead after three quarters.
And despite Rylie McIver and Lauren McFarland fouling out midway through the fourth quarter, Lehman was still in position to win the game.
McFarland had tied it with a 3-pointer at 45-45 before fouling out.
Heidi Toner twice broke ties with baskets, only to have Megan Maier answer with two free throws each time to make it 49-49.
Unfortunately, Lehman’s chances the rest of the game came from the line. With a chance to open up a lead, the Cavaliers went 1 for 6 from the line on its next three possessions.
“It has been our bugaboo all season and it was again today,” Hall said. “We work on it a lot in practice, but it has been our achilles heal all season. I told the girls it was going to cost us.”
Twice, Lehman went to the line with a 50-49 lead and missed both attempts each time.
With Lehman leading 50-49, Houston’s Maier drilled a 3 from the corner with less than 20 seconds to go to make it 52-50.
“The plan was to go to Megan (Maier) in the corner if she was open,” Allen said. “If not, we were going to kick it inside. Megan (Maier) made some big threes, then hit that 3-pointer.”
Hall called timeout with 17.8 seconds left, but Houston was able to tie them up with 8.3 seconds left, receiving the ball on the possession arrow.
Maier was immediately fouled and hit one of two free throws to make it 53-50.
Lehman’s desperation shot at the buzzer was off the mark, giving the Wildcats the win.
It was the final game for McIver, McFarland and Hope Anthony.
“It is tough,” Hall said. “We had a good season. We have Anna Cianciolo back and Heidi Toner is just a sophomore. Heidi had a great game today. She has so much potential and hopefully, she will keep working at it.”
Toner was the bright spot for Lehman on Saturday, with a double-double with 17 points and 10 rebounds. McIver had 12 points, six rebounds and six steals while McFarland had 11 points and four steals.
Cianciolo had six points, four assists and three steals.
Maier, just a sophomore, had a huge game for Houston with 22 points. Taylor Maxwell had eight points and Amber Stangel, Rylie Voisard and Mariah Booher all scored seven.
Jackson Center 35, Fairlawn 33
The No. 7 seed Tigers won a rubber match with No. 6 Fairlawn in a sectional semifinal on Saturday in Sidney.
Kylie Hartle and Regan Clark each scored 11 points for Jackson Center. MaCalla Huelskamp led the Jets with 15 points while Lonna Heath scored 11.
The Tigers (6-17) had lost their last seven games before Saturday’s win — including a 26-9 loss on their home court to Fairlawn on Tuesday in the team’s regular-season finale. Jackson Center won the team’s first SCAL matchup 35-28 on Jan. 4.
Jackson Center advances to face No. 8 Riverside on Tuesday in Sidney. The Tigers beat the Pirates 34-31 in a nonconference game on Dec. 10 in Jackson Center.
Fairlawn finishes 8-15 overall.
Mechanicsburg 56, Russia 44
The No. 5 Raiders couldn’t keep up with No. 2 Mechanicsburg in a sectional semifinal on Saturday in Sidney.
Russia led 16-13 at the end of the first quarter but the Indians used a 12-3 scoring edge in the second and 19-9 edge in the third to take control.
Olivia Moorman and Ashley Scott each scored 11 points for Russia, which finishes 10-12 overall. The squad lost six of its last eight games.
Sidney Daily News sports editor Bryant Billing contributed to this article. Billing can be reached at email@example.com.