Marietta girls edge West Muskingum

ZANESVILLE – Starr Johnson converted a three-point play with less than a minute to play to give Marietta High the lead, and then grabbed a pair of crucial rebounds in the game’s final seconds to lead the Lady Tigers to a 44-43 win over the West Muskingum Lady Tornadoes at the Route 40 Classic.

The Tigers surrendered the lead early in the fourth quarter after leading for most of the game before rallying to secure their 12th victory of the season.

“We didn’t panic when we fell behind with three minutes to go and made some plays down the stretch,” said MHS head coach Mark Hannuksela. “I thought that we didn’t make some plays that we should have that led to us getting behind but we were able to get the ones that counted.”

West Muskingum jumped out to a quick 6-0 lead sparked by a pair of steals and three consecutive field goals by senior guard Amisha Herd.

It took the Lady Tigers most of the first quarter to even things up, but they finally did when Johnson grabbed an offensive board and put it back in to tie things up at 13-13.

Brittany Deskins put the Tigers in front for the first time in the game by connecting on one of two freebies, and West Muskingum’s Sarah Scott and Marietta’s Taylor Smith exchanged buckets to close out the quarter with the orange and black in front 16-15.

The Tigers extended their lead to six on a three-pointer off the bench by Whitney Gilkeson and a pair of free throws by Lain Weppler.

Weppler scored 14 points in the first half including the final deuce that sent MHS to the locker room with a 27-23 lead.

The Tornadoes quickly cut the lead to three on a pair of scores by Herd to open the second half, but the Tigers managed to keep some daylight between the two on back-to-back buckets by Johnson and Weppler.

Herd opened the final period much like she did the opening one as she contributed five points to a 7-0 WM run that saw them regain the lead at 38-36.

Smith converted one of two from the charity stripe to close the lead to one before Herd and Weppler traded baskets to send the game into the final three minutes with West Muskingum clinging to a 40-39 lead.

The 5-foot-3 Herd led the way for the Lady Tornadoes with 21 points and 11 boards but struggled from the free-throw line as she missed seven of 12 shots including 3-of-4 down the stretch to keep the Tigers in the ball game.

Marietta’s Alle Moore tied the game with an inside score but Herd answered once again with a drive and score but missed a chance to make it a three-point lead by missing yet another freebie.

The Tigers worked the ball around before Lauren Martin found Johnson under the basket for the score and when Johnson cashed in at the free-throw the Tigers had a 44-43 lead with 50 seconds to play.

West Muskingum got two more chances to take the lead but missed each time and Johnson was there to clean up on the boards at the most opportune time.

“Coach (Hannuksela) really makes us work on rebounding in practice and it really paid off today,” said Johnson, who led the Tigers in rebounding with 13. “I knew I had to get that rebound and not let them get another shot.”

The orange and black outrebounded West Muskingum in the game by a healthy 35-24 margin.

Weppler led the way for MHS with a double-double as she scored 20 points and grabbed 11 boards.

“We were coming off of a tough loss last night in New Philly and we just wanted to come out strong,” said Weppler. “I have a lot of confidence in this team and I knew we were going to come in here and get it done.”

West Muskingum slipped to 6-6 with the loss while the Tigers improved their season mark to 12-4.

The Tigers will return to conference action Wednesday night when they host Cambridge.