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Tenacious ‘D’ leads Lady Jays to victory over Blanchester on day one of Ripley Pepsi Classic

Chris Coleman, head coach of the RULH varsity girls basketball squad, instructs his Lady Jays during a timeout in the Dec. 28 win over Blanchester.

Arnett leads way with 11 points –

By Wade Linville –

The Ripley-Union-Lewis-Huntington Lady Jays came out victorious on day one of the three-day Ripley Pepsi Classic, putting forth a tenacious defensive effort in the second half of play to top the Blanchester Lady Wildcats, 32-26.
While fighting their way through a great deal of turbulence on their flight through a tough regular season schedule, the Lady Jays have continued to improve and Wednesday’s victory over the talented squad from Blanchester certainly provided a needed boost of confidence for the Ripley varsity girls who entered day one of the Pepsi Classic coming off a heartbreaking 49-48 league loss to the Peebles Lady Indians.
“Blanchester is a very good team. They are well-coached, Coach (Bennie) Carroll does and excellent job and always has. So, to get a win (over them) I thought was pretty good for us,” said Ripley head coach Chris Coleman. “We didn’t collapse in the fourth quarter like we have at times this year. I thought we composed ourselves fairly well, we didn’t turn the ball over, and we made enough shots.”
The Lady Jays were able to rise to a narrow 16-15 lead before halftime break and both teams would come out in the third quarter to apply full-court defensive pressure.
The full-court pressure worked slightly in favor of the Lady Jays in the third quarter, as they were able to outscore the Wildcats 9-8 in the frame to hold a 25-23 lead going into the fourth period.
Coleman said it was his assistant coach Brad Cannon who suggested switching to a two-three zone defense in the fourth quarter, which turned out to be a brilliant decision by the Ripley coaching staff.
Not did the defensive switch keep the seasoned Ripley players from getting even deeper into foul trouble in the final minutes, but they were also able to hold the Wildcats to only three points in the entire fourth quarter.
“Brad came up with the idea of going zone, and we had talked about it anyway. We zoned them last year and had some success with it, so we thought we may be able to again this year,” said Coleman.
On the offensive end, the Lady Jays missed some shots from close range late in the game but were still able to put up seven points in the fourth period, outscoring the Wildcats 16-11 in the second half, to secure a six-point victory.
“They (Lady Wildcats) are a physical team and I have stressed that over the last few days of practice,” said Coleman. “I’m pretty happy right now…proud of our girls.”
Leading all scorers in the contest and earning Pepsi Classic Player of the Game honors was Ripley’s senior Kassey Arnett, who finished with 11 points. Arnett not only provided the Lady Jays with seven needed points in the second half of play, but also forced some key turnovers on the defensive end that played a significant role in the Ripley win.
A long two-point field goal by Arnett sparked a late-game Ripley run with the clock closing in on the midway point in the fourth quarter. Arnett’s field goal was followed by a two-point field goal from Cailey Kirk to up the Ripley lead to 29-23 with 3:30 to go in the fourth quarter. Then it was Carlee Daulton and Kacy Gilkerson finding a bit of success from the charity stripe to expand the Ripley lead to 32-23 in the final minutes of the fourth quarter, marking the end of the 7-0 Ripley run.
Ripley senior Kacy Gilkerson contributed with eight points.
Kirk and Kursten Prater finished with four points apiece, while Carlee Daulton contributed three points to Ripley’s side of the scoreboard.
Rounding out Ripley’s scoring was Jennifer Eichner with two points.
Leading the way for Blanchester in scoring was Elecia Putton with eight points.

BHS      6    9  8  3  – 26
RULH   4  12  9  7  – 32

Blanchester (26): Baldwin 1 0-0 2, Putton 3 0-0 8, O. Gundler 2 0-0 4, E. Gundler 2 2-5 6, Greene 1 0-0 2, Walter 1 0-3 2, Farrow 1 0-0 2. Three-pointers: Putton 2. Team: 11 2-8 26.

Ripley (32): Arnett 4 1-2 11, Gilkerson 2 4-4 8, Kirk 2 0-1 4, Prater 1 2-4 4, Daulton 0 3-6 3, Eichner 1 0-2 2. Three-pointers: Arnett 2. Team: 10 10-19 32.

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