JACKSON, Ohio — If the shots don’t fall, it’s really hard to win a basketball game.
The River Valley girls basketball team shot 25 percent from the field and never led Monday night during a season-ending 49-32 setback to Crooksville in a Division III sectional semifinal matchup at Jackson High School.
The 13th-seeded Lady Raiders (7-15) missed their first eight shot attempts in the opening period, allowing the fourth-seeded Lady Ceramics (11-10) to jump out to an early 6-0 edge three minutes into regulation.
A Leia Moore jumper at the 3:52 mark gave RVHS its first points, but the Lady Raiders would never be closer than four points (6-2) the rest of the night.
Crooksville led 13-4 after one quarter of play and was ahead 28-16 at halftime. The Lady Raiders — who made just 7-of-32 shot attempts in the first half — trailed 40-23 headed into the finale and were twice down by as many as 21 points in the fourth.
River Valley — which had won 4-of-6 decisions headed into the postseason — finished the night 13-of-52 from the floor, including an equal 4-of-16 effort from three-point range.
Defensively, RVHS limited the Lady Ceramics to an 18-of-47 effort (38 percent) from the floor, but the lack of an offensive punch over 32 minutes ultimately led to the end of an otherwise noteworthy season.
“Tonight was hard. We were getting some good looks at the basket, but it just wouldn’t fall through,” RVHS coach Renee Gilmore said afterwards. “Over time, it took a lot of aggression out of us … especially on the defensive side. You get frustrated when the shots are not falling, and we never really found that spark that we needed it tonight.
“If we would have had a few shots fall together at some time, it may have put the wind back in our sails. It could have been a different outcome.”
River Valley went just 2-of-14 from the field in the opening period, and CHS turned an 6-2 edge into a 10-2 lead at the 2:24 mark of the first stanza, but Rachael Smith added a bucket at 17 seconds later to pull the guests to within six.
Kaitlyn Mills sank a trifecta at the 1:57 mark to push Crooksville out to a 13-4 advantage, and neither team scored over the remainder of the first period.
The Lady Ceramics took their first double-digit lead at 16-6 just 42 seconds into the second quarter, then the hosts established two different leads of 17 points — the last of which came at 28-11 with just 30 seconds left in the half.
The Lady Raiders closed the second period with a brief 5-0 run, allowing them to trim their deficit down to 28-16 at the intermission. River Valley — which committed 14 turnovers, seven in each half — shot just 22 percent from the floor in the opening 16 minutes of play.
RVHS managed to pull back to within 12 points (35-23) with 3:14 left in the third quarter after a field goal by Cady Gilmore, but CHS closed the period with a 5-0 spurt to secure a 40-23 cushion headed into the finale.
Crooksville claimed it final 21-point lead (46-25) with 3:53 left in regulation, but the Lady Raiders closed the game with a 7-3 run to wrap up the 17-point outcome.
The Lady Ceramics advance to the sectional final on Saturday, as they will face 12th-seeded Alexander at 2:45 p.m. at Jackson High School. The Lady Spartans upset fifth-seeded Nelsonville-York with a 41-38 decision.
Rachael Smith led River Valley with eight points, while Chelsea Copley and Leia Moore each contributed six markers. Cady Gilmore was next with five points, while Courtney Smith added three points.
Ashley Cheesebrew and Justyce Stout rounded out the RVHS scoring with two points apiece. The Lady Raiders were just 2-of-4 at the free throw line for 50 percent.
Crooksville finished the night 18-of-47 from the field, which included a 2-of-9 effort from three-point range for 22 percent. CHS committed 13 turnovers and also went 11-of-20 at the charity stripe for 55 percent.
Shelbi VanMeter paced the Lady Ceramics with a game-high 23 points, followed by Sadona Sowers with eight points and Kaitlyn Mills with five markers.
It was the final basketball game for seniors Shalin Comer, Justyce Stout, Cady Gilmore and Ashley Cheesebrew in the Silver and Black. It was also an emotional night for RVHS coach Renee Gilmore, who is the mother of Cady and like family to the others.
“I’ve watched these kids grow over the years, I’ve been around them in basketball as far back as third grade, so this is a little difficult for me right now,” Gilmore said. “They are such good friends, and just watching them grow into the fine young people they have become has been a real joy. I’ve been blessed to be able to coach them and to know them.”
The Lady Raiders completed the 2012-13 campaign with a 4-6 mark in the Ohio Valley Conference, which included a sweep of Chesapeake and the program’s first win over South Point in over a decade. Cady Gilmore also became the program’s fourth girl to ever eclipse the 1,000-point plateau in a career.