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Paul Boggs: Lady Trojans slay Dragons

Jan. 9—Previous

Portsmouth freshman Hayven Carter (5) goes in for a basket against Fairland defenders Bree Allen and Kylee Bruce (44) during Monday night's Ohio Valley Conference key girls basketball game at Portsmouth High School.

Courtesy of Tim Gearhart

Portsmouth junior Daysha Reid (3) looks to drive on a Fairland Lady Dragon defender during Monday night's Ohio Valley Conference key girls basketball game at Portsmouth High School's Trojan Arena.

Courtesy of Tim Gearhart

Portsmouth sophomore Sienna Allen (1) drives in for a layup as Fairland's Bree Allen defends during Monday night's Ohio Valley Conference key girls basketball game at Portsmouth High School's Trojan Arena.

Courtesy of Tim Gearhart

Portsmouth freshman Keke Woods (4) seeks to drive on Fairland defender Kylee Bruce during Monday night's Ohio Valley Conference key girls basketball game at Portsmouth High School's Trojan Arena.

Courtesy of Tim Gearhart

Portsmouth freshman Hayven Carter (5) goes in for a basket against Fairland defenders Bree Allen and Kylee Bruce (44) during Monday night's Ohio Valley Conference key girls basketball game at Portsmouth High School.

Courtesy of Tim Gearhart

Portsmouth junior Daysha Reid (3) looks to drive on a Fairland Lady Dragon defender during Monday night's Ohio Valley Conference key girls basketball game at Portsmouth High School's Trojan Arena.

Courtesy of Tim Gearhart

Portsmouth sophomore Sienna Allen (1) drives in for a layup as Fairland's Bree Allen defends during Monday night's Ohio Valley Conference key girls basketball game at Portsmouth High School's Trojan Arena.

Courtesy of Tim Gearhart

Portsmouth freshman Keke Woods (4) seeks to drive on Fairland defender Kylee Bruce during Monday night's Ohio Valley Conference key girls basketball game at Portsmouth High School's Trojan Arena.

Courtesy of Tim Gearhart

Portsmouth freshman Hayven Carter (5) goes in for a basket against Fairland defenders Bree Allen and Kylee Bruce (44) during Monday night's Ohio Valley Conference key girls basketball game at Portsmouth High School.

Courtesy of Tim Gearhart

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Portsmouth junior Daysha Reid (3) looks to drive on a Fairland Lady Dragon defender during Monday night's Ohio Valley Conference key girls basketball game at Portsmouth High School's Trojan Arena.

Courtesy of Tim Gearhart

PORTSMOUTH — As time ran out, Sienna Allen simply tossed the ball as high in the air as she possibly could.

Keke Woods was instantly spotted doing a cartwheel with a backflip.

Amy Hughes had hugs for pretty much everybody coming up to her afterwards.

And the Portsmouth Lady Trojans, with their fellow student section, couldn't stop celebrating on Monday night.

That's right — the young yet talented and highly-touted Lady Trojans slayed some stronghold Fairland Lady Dragons, never trailing for the final 25 minutes and 11 seconds, and capturing a massive 55-51 Ohio Valley Conference girls basketball victory inside indeed a celebratory Trojan Arena.

As a result, in a much-anticipated and expected matchup of the OVC's final two unbeatens, Portsmouth put itself into the proverbial driver's seat — as the now 10-1 Lady Trojans take over outright first place (at 7-0 OVC).

Speaking of 7-0, the Lady Trojan trio of freshmen — of Hayven Carter, Bry Shannon and Woods —is now exactly that against the Lady Dragons, as they, coached by Hughes' father Mike, won three meetings apiece against Fairland for their two seasons in junior high.

That was part of 35 wins over two middle school years, but would it translate to the high school level —where the Lady Dragons have dominated recently, aside from a couple of Coal Grove campaigns.

Fairland — which had won 44 consecutive conference clashes dating back three full calendar years to Jan. 7, 2021 — fell for the first time in 12 contests, and is now 6-1 in the league.

The two will rematch at Fairland's Carl York Center on Feb. 5, so almost an entire month awaits — before beginning to seriously concentrate on that return tilt.

Monday night was in fact all about the Lady Trojans' here and now, as they pulled off what many objective observers believed was quite the upset.

After all, the Lady Dragons did return just about their entire roster —from not only their defending OVC championship squad, but their defending Division II Region 7 title-winning club.

In addition on Monday, and for what it's worth, the first Associated Press Ohio high school girls basketball poll was released for 2024 — with Fairland third in Division II and Portsmouth fifth in Division III.

But Portsmouth played pretty-much perfect, and definitely fantastic against the experienced Lady Dragons, in front of a full and loud Trojan Arena.

Hughes, naturally, had nothing but praise for her nine-player unit —of which only Emily Cheatham is a senior.

"It's been a lot of hard work from the kids and the coaching staff. It's just constant, constant work. It's finally nice to see it all pay off with a night like tonight and a very good team win like this," said Hughes, the sixth-year PHS head coach. "We never go away from the fundamentals, this team's toughness and quickness. They are extra-fast on game days, and it's nice to see this group step up in the clutch. I really believe I have nine kids which step up in the clutch. I'm so proud of how tough these nine kids are."

Speaking of clutch, that was Portsmouth junior Daysha Reid —who poured in a game-high 21 points, on four two-point goals, four three-point goals, and a split of free throws with 17-and-a-half seconds left which made it 55-51.

In fact, the final minute-and-a-half belonged to the fearless sharpshooter Reid.

With the game's fourth tie at 51-51, and against the Lady Dragons' zone, Reid made like a good marks-woman —and confidently canned her fourth and final three-pointer with 1:20 to go, and more importantly for the 54-51 lead.

Almost a minute later, Kam Barnitz tried to answer for Fairland and the game's fifth tie, but she missed —and the standout junior Allen rebounded with 23 seconds showing.

After a timeout, the Lady Dragons —forced to foul —fouled Reid to enact the two-shot bonus free-throw situation.

She made the first but missed the second, but Bree Allen —arguably the Lady Dragons' top returnee —couldn't connect on a top-of-the-key three with two seconds remaining.

The ball was out of bounds to the Lady Trojans, which simply inbounded out of the timeout —and the wild celebration was indeed on.

Sienna Allen added 19 points to Reid's 21, scoring six field goals including three in the opening quarter —and meshing 7-of-9 free throws, all in the second half.

Portsmouth sophomore Sienna Allen (1) drives in for a layup as Fairland's Bree Allen defends during Monday night's Ohio Valley Conference key girls basketball game at Portsmouth High School's Trojan Arena.

Courtesy of Tim Gearhart

Her pair with 2:22 to play broke a 47-47 tie —the first of three deadlocks in the final 4:23, of which 49-49 and 51-51 were the others.

Reid broke the final tie, and broke the Lady Dragons' proverbial backs.

"Daysha does, Sienna does, these girls always perform well in the clutch," said Hughes. "They really do."

And, at the outset of halves as well.

Reid's first three-pointer pushed Portsmouth's lead to 9-5, her second to 19-13 only 18 seconds into the second stanza, and her third to break the game's first tie (21-21).

The Lady Trojans took leads of 16-13 at the first stop and 26-23 at halftime, as a Reid assist to Carter only 10 seconds into the third frame — and Allen's five straight points including an old-fashioned three-point play — gave Portsmouth its largest lead at 33-23.

Allen amassed 11 of her 19 in the third, as Carter netted five in the period —part of her nine total on four field goals and a split of foul shots.

Portsmouth freshman Hayven Carter (5) goes in for a basket against Fairland defenders Bree Allen and Kylee Bruce (44) during Monday night's Ohio Valley Conference key girls basketball game at Portsmouth High School.

Courtesy of Tim Gearhart

For the game, the Lady Trojans shot 20-of-57 for 35-percent —with 15 of those 57 being three-point tries.

They were also 11-of-17 from the foul line —as six-foot and four-inch junior Savannah Cantrell split a pair in the fourth, part of 10-of-15 for the second half.

Woods, with five points, split a first-quarter pair for the Lady Trojans' only attempts in the first 16 minutes.

Portsmouth freshman Keke Woods (4) seeks to drive on Fairland defender Kylee Bruce during Monday night's Ohio Valley Conference key girls basketball game at Portsmouth High School's Trojan Arena.

Courtesy of Tim Gearhart

But truth be told, it wasn't about scoring for Portsmouth on Monday.

For Fairland fires away from three-point range, but the Lady Trojans' speed simply bothered the Lady Dragons all evening.

The Green and White appeared uncomfortable on offense all night, and never completely got in its trusted shooting rhythm —going 7-of-24 (29-percent) from distance, part of 18-of-50 (36-percent) for the entire game.

"I would chalk that defensive tribute up to how daggone tough my kids are. They were probably tired too, but you would never have known it. They didn't ask to come out, they didn't pretend-tie their shoes and all that kind of stuff," said Hughes. "They are the toughest nine kids I've ever seen. You're extra quick when you're extra tough."

And, when Fairland wasn't hitting from the outside as per usual, Cantrell controlled the lane with her height and length —as the so-called "Guardian of the Galaxy" blocked several Dragon shots.

Bree Allen with 17 points paced the Lady Dragons, but she scored a dozen of those in the first half.

She and Barnitz (nine points) tied in three-point goals with three apiece, as Addison Godby tallied 10 points on three field goals and 4-of-6 freebies.

The Lady Dragons did rally from that 10-point deficit, getting as close as 38-37 with 1:52 to play in the third — and to 44-43 on a Barnitz three-ball to open the fourth.

That preceded the three fourth-quarter ties, although the Lady Trojans never surrendered the lead —following a 12-11 deficit with 1:48 left in the first.

A Reid steal, drive, and bucket made it 13-12 only 37 seconds later —marking the sixth and final lead change.

By game's end, Reid was raining a clutch triple and free throw —before the Lady Trojans' true postgame celebration.

Hughes said her team has worked to reach this point.

"I think we feel blessed to have the bullseye on our backs. That's what we've been working towards. Honestly, it's an honor to finally get here and have that," she said. "The future is bright and it's already here."

And, it's already included an important win over the Lady Dragons.

Portsmouth returns home, and returns to OVC action, on Thursday night against Rock Hill.

The Lady Trojans then travel to Hiland High School this weekend —for two games in the annual Classic in The Country.

Portsmouth plays Division I Mason on Sunday at 5:20 p.m., followed by facing Shaking Heights Laurel on Monday at 3 p.m.

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Fairland 13 10 17 11—51

Portsmouth 16 10 18 11—55

FAIRLAND 51 (11-1, 6-1 OVC)

Isa Taliaferro 1 0-0 2, Addison Godby 3 4-6 10, Bree Allen 6 2-2 17, Kam Barnitz 3 0-0 9, Bailey Russell 2 2-2 7, Hannah Taylor 0 0-0 0, Kylee Bruce 3 0-0 6; TOTALS 18 8-10 51; Three-point goals: 7 (Bree Allen and Kam Barnitz 3 apiece, Bailey Russell 1)

PORTSMOUTH 55 (10-1, 7-0 OVC)

Sienna Allen 6 7-9 19, Daysha Reid 8 1-2 21, Keke Woods 2 1-2 5, Hayven Carter 4 1-2 9, Bry Shannon 0 0-0 0, KK Mays 0 0-0 0, Savannah Cantrell 0 1-2 1; TOTALS 20 11-17 55; Three-point goals: 4 (Daysha Reid 4)

Reach Paul Boggs at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1926, by email at pboggs@aimmediamidwest.com, or on X @paulboggssports © 2024 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved