ROSS TWP. — Ross High School’s girls basketball team is no longer perfect, much to the Rams’ delight.
Kellan Romans drove for a layup with 35 seconds left and Ross held on for a 26-25 victory over visiting Talawanda on Wednesday night in a matchup of winless Butler County squads.
“This has been built up the past week in practice,” said Romans, a senior forward. “We came into the locker room today and we were like, ‘Someone’s walking away with a win, and it’s going to be us.’ We fell short a few times, but we had that mentality all day.”
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It may not have been great basketball, but it was still a competitive Southwest Ohio Conference affair that had a margin of three points or less for the entire second half.
The Rams ended a 14-game losing streak and improved their record to 1-12 overall and 1-4 in the SWOC. They hadn’t tasted victory since beating Talawanda (0-12, 0-6) last February.
“We had to win this game,” Ross coach Rodney Parrett said. “It was an awful game … we played awful … but we’re to the point where it didn’t matter how we did it. You take the ‘W’ any way you can get it and hopefully it becomes a mental thing of, ‘He’s been telling us this all along, but we just did it. We can win.’ ”
Veronica Allen and Sydney Shaw paced the Rams with six points apiece. Korryne Justice grabbed 10 rebounds and Hannah Lainhart added seven.
Kyra Koontz led the Brave with 12 points and 12 boards, while Jazz Bennett scored six points and Sophie Pohlabel snagged 10 rebounds. Talawanda’s losing streak is now at 14.
“We just discussed our mental toughness,” first-year Brave coach Mary Jo Huismann said after emerging from the THS locker room. “I don’t care if you print that we’re working on our mental toughness because that’s what’s separating us right now. They’re working hard in practice, but it does not translate over to the game, and I’m not sure why.
“We’re not going to stop trying. We’re going to keep trying, and I think we’re going to get it together before the end of the year. Mark my word, we are.”
Bennett’s basket with 1:06 remaining gave Talawanda its final lead at 25-24. Romans scored coming out of a timeout with 39.1 ticks left. She inbounded the ball to Shaw, who gave it right back, and Romans drove to the basket for a layup.
“Somebody had to score,” Romans said. “I just had to do a move and hope for the best. I was like, ‘Come on, Kellan. You practice this. Just make it. Put it in.’ I knew there might not be another opportunity, so I guess the desperation factor came in. Senior year, captain … I just wanted it to go in.”
Parrett put her back in the game right before her winning basket.
“She looked at me and said, ‘I’m ready, Coach. Put me in,’ ” Parrett said. “Thank God they ran the play exactly like we drew it up. One way or the other, Kellan was going to get an opportunity to score. She was either going to shoot free throws or a layup. She’s a trooper. She’s not loaded with basketball skill, but she is loaded with heart.”
Talawanda responded with four shots at the other end in the final seconds. The last one was a hurried, off-balance attempt off an inbounds play with 0.8 seconds left.
“God, it seemed like a long time,” Parrett said. “When they got the ball in, I was scared to death we were going to foul her. I was like, ‘If they get a shot off, put it in the hands of the gods, but don’t put them on the foul line.’ ”
Ross, which has five single-digit losses this season, hopes to use the win as a springboard for the rest of the year.
“Hopefully this will change the SWOC’s mind about us,” Romans said. “The first round was not good, but we’re going to come back hard in the second round.”
The Rams will resume conference play at home Saturday afternoon against Harrison. The Brave will visit Franklin County (Ind.) on Tuesday.
TALAWANDA (0-12, 0-6 SWOC): Kyra Koontz 3 5 12; Sophie Pohlabel 1 0 2; Jazz Bennett 3 0 6; Abigail Fessel 1 0 2; Katie Jones 1 0 3. Totals: 9-5-25
ROSS (1-12, 1-4 SWOC): Grace Stenger 2 0 4; Brooklyn Breaker 2 0 4; Kellan Romans 2 0 4; Sydney Shaw 3 0 6; Hannah Lainhart 1 0 2; Veronica Allen 2 2 6. Totals: 12-2-26
3-pointers: T 2 (Koontz, Jones)