Derrick Webb, Staff Writer
PIKETON — Words weren’t good enough to describe the emotions that ran through both Emily Allen and Lauren Lane Tuesday night. Instead, their ear-to-ear smiles did the talking for them.
That could be said for Zane Trace’s entire roster, a group that had just beat Piketon by a 35-26 final on the road.
It wasn’t a win that shifted the team into a position to win a conference title, it wasn’t a postseason win, and it wasn’t a win with their season on the line, but it was a win … just the team’s second victory in the past three years and the first in SVC action since Jan. 26, 2017.
You read that correctly. Tuesday’s win over Piketon snapped a 35-month losing streak.
Allen and Lane’s smiles were indeed warranted.
“I’m beyond excited for me and my team. We did awesome. We’ve come a long way,” Lane said. “This is our first-ever high school SVC win, which is completely nuts because we’ve worked hard everyday in practice. We’ve just been trying to … get a win.”
But they had to fight to get it.
Piketon, a program that’s been riddled with injuries, played its usual style of in-your-face defense. The Redstreaks frustrated Zane Trace with a full-court press during the second half and limited quality looks at the basket.
PHOTOS: Images from Zane Trace’s 35-26 win over Piketon
But Allen and the Pioneers (1-6, 1-3 SVC) kept shooting and, eventually, saw shots fall.
“I’m ecstatic. I’ve never won an SVC game,” Allen said. “We’re playing hard and we’ve really been putting in work this year. It’s paying off. Ever point, every rebound we get, it just adds confidence. Everytime we score and everytime we get a good rebound, it helps us mentally.”
There were several instances where Allen gave her team a confidence boost on Tuesday. The 5-foot-9 sophomore scored six of the team’s first eight points and was relentless on the glass.
She ended the night with a game-high 14 points alongside 16 rebounds.
“We call her Dennis Rodman,” Zane Trace coach Todd O’Dell said of Allen, smiling. “Emily has been working really hard. When I took over in the summer, they had no idea about footwork or squaring up near the basket. The very first shot I saw Emily shoot this summer was a turn-throw-heave thing from 15 feet. So we’ve gotten away from that. But once she gets going, she does a great job. She’s got a motor that doesn’t quit. I’m tickled to death with her.”
Allen set the tone from the tip with three of the team’s first four scores to give Zane Trace an 8-0 lead with 4:55 to go in the first quarter. That paced the Pioneers to an 11-5 lead heading into the second where, to be blunt, not much happened.
Piketon’s Ally Ritchie scored to make it 11-7 and Zane Trace’s Laynee Hill answered with 3:41 left in the first half, pushing the lead back to six. The Pioneers then hit one of two free throws to take a 14-7 lead into halftime.
In the third, Lane gave the Pioneers a 20-11 lead with 3:11 to go before Allen made it a 24-15 lead at the 7:24 mark in the fourth. Trailing 28-17 with 5:31 remaining, Piketon’s Ava Little hit a 3 to cut the deficit back to single digits.
But Gracey McCullough stole a pass and went coast-to-coast for a bucket before Lane hit a jumper with 1:16 left to make it 33-23 and give the Pioneers all the breathing room they’d need.
“[Piketon] really went at our throats and we just went right back at them,” Allen said. “We just kept pushing. We just have to keep doing that. We want to keep winning.”
Following Allen’s game-highs, McCullough had five points and six rebounds while Lane added six points and three boards. Alara Crow was also active, scoring four points and grabbing nine rebounds.
For Piketon, Ritchie led the way with eight points while Kennedy Jenkins tallied five points, seven boards and a pair of assists. Addison Johnson also helped, scoring five points and grabbing four rebounds.
Zane Trace is back in action Thursday, traveling to Unioto, while Piketon will try and snap a five-game losing streak against Adena on Saturday.
No matter where Zane Trace goes from here, O’Dell acknowledged something significant for both the Pioneers’ coaching staff and girls.
There’s a light at the end of the tunnel.
“The first goal was to get our first win. The next goal is to win two games because we only won one last year,” he said. “There has been a couple of games this year where I thought we could’ve pulled it out. The girls were just happy to be competing in a game. So we’ve been trying to get them over that hump. Hopefully, this can get us going.”
Zane Trace: 11-3-8-13 — 35
Piketon: 5-2-7-12 — 26
Zane Trace: 15-56 FG, 5-11 FT, 0-4 3pt., 40 rebounds (Allen 16), 28 turnovers, 10 assists (Hill 3). Scoring: Allen 14, Lane 6, McCullough 5, Crow 4, Hill 4, O’Neil 2.
Piketon: 6-35 FG, 12-23 FT, 2-9 3pt., 20 rebounds (Jenkins 7), 28 turnovers, 5 assists (Jenkins 2). Scoring: Ritchie 8, Jenkins 5, Johnson 5, McNelly 4, Little 3, Vulgamore 1.