Lady T-birds secure top spot in sub-state

Lionel Tipton

TOWANDA – It wasn’t for the league title, but Circle’s girls basketball team had a lot riding on Tuesday’s home game against Winfield.

Chief among these was the top seed in the Thunderbird’s four-team regional, which begins next Wednesday. Andale’s loss Monday at McPherson opened the door for Circle to snag the No. 1 seed. 

Circle started fast, taking an early 20-7 lead, then kept Winfield at bay the rest of the way and cruised to a 49-39 victory, securing the top spot in the regional.

The victory ensured the Thunderbirds (13-4) home games through the first round of the state Class 4A playoffs, should they make it that far. 

That quest begins next Wednesday with a game against fourth-seeded El Dorado. Andale, which dropped to No. 2 seed despite owning a head-to-head victory over Circle, will open at home against Augusta. The winners will play Saturday, and that winner will advance March 8 to the opening state-tournament round, which is being played at home sites.

It wasn’t a thing of beauty, but Circle managed to get the job done. Despite Winfield having players standing 6-foot-1 and one other at 5-10 in the post, The Thunderbirds managed to get inside and get fouled. 

Afterward, coach Brian Henry said he was relieved to clinch the home-court advantage. 

“That was a big point of emphasis that we had,” he said. “We wanted to come out and execute well.

“We fell short in a few of our goal areas. I thought we had good ball movement offensively (but) it was not our night hitting shots. I think we were 2 of 17 from the three-point line. That’s not necessarily where you want to be.

“We just had to battle through their inside presence. We struggled to keep them out of position and keep them off the boards as well.”

It was Senior Night at Circle, and fittingly, the T-Birds’ offense was mainly powered by the seniors. The five seniors featured Tuesday night accounted for 39 of Circle’s total. Macy Claycamp hit four field goals and was 4-of-5 from the free-throw line for a team-high 12 points. Kimalee Cook followed with 11, and Lanna Chase hit a three-pointer and finished with 10.

Winfield freshman Aleah Moree led all scorers with 15 points, mainly on putbacks of Vikings missed shots. 

Henry said he thought his girls did a good job of trying to increase the pace, a move that produced 14 Winfield turnovers in the first half.

Placing three players in double figures left Henry very pleased.

“That’s a rarity for us, to get three into double figures,” he said. “That’s going to help us as we move forward, to get more people involved in our game.”

Andale won at Circle, 47-30, Feb. 2 when the teams met for the only time this season. Henry said that the Thunderbirds would like a chance to avenge that loss.

“Andale’s a solid team; they came in here and beat us,” he said. “We know we’ve got to play better, but I’d rather take the opportunity to play them again here, rather than go to their house.

“We’ll just make the most of our opportunities.”

Winfield’s high first-half turnover count didn’t surprise Henry.

“We pride ourselves on our defensive intensity,” he said. “We were getting the turnovers (but) we weren’t converting them into points.”

Henry seemed unfazed about seeing the lead shrink in the second half, although Circle never trailed in the game.

“Those kinds of games are good for you, too,” he said. “It shows you what you need to work on and places you in situations you are always in.”

Circle was bitten a little by the turnover bug in the third quarter, allowing Winfield to draw a little closer. 

“We got a little bit too aggressive,” Henry said. “Maybe sometimes we should have pulled it out and reset our offense.

“We’ve got to learn to play aggressive and smart as well.”

Circle girls 49, Winfield 39

Winfield 3;14;12;10 – 39

Circle 14;17;12;6 – 59

WINFIELD – Moree 7 1-1 15, Gedrose 1(1) 3-4 8, Ross 2 0-1 4, Curtis 0(1) 0-2 3, K. Johnson 0(1) 0-0 3, Green 1 0-0 2, Camp 1 0-0 2, Seaman 1 0-0 2. Totals 13(3) 4-8 39.

CIRCLE – Claycamp 4 4-5 12. Cook 4 3-4 11, Chase 3(1) 1-2 10, E. Johnson 2 1-4 5, Michaelis 1 2-2 4, Shaults 0(1) 0-0 3, Gilmartin 1 0-0 2, Thornton 1 0-0 2. Totals 16(2) 11-17 49.