JACKSON — Nelsonville-York senior Grace Sinnott and the Buckeyes always get after it on the defensive end.
“We’re a killer defensive team,” Sinnott said. “If it’s on point that night, we’re unstoppable.”
The Buckeyes were certainly unstoppable on Thursday, cruising to an opening-round tournament victory.
No. 6 Nelsonville-York easily dispatched of No. 27 Rock Hill, 57-21, in a Division III sectional semifinal game played at Jackson High School.
The Redmen (5-16) were simply outmatched against the Buckeyes, scoring only four second-half points.
“Coach (Bobby Cassady) says it every game, defense is what’s going to keep us in the game,” Sinnott said. “If our shots aren’t falling, our defense is going to keep us in games. That’s kind of what we key into.”
Rock Hill had all sorts of problems on its hands, as not only were the Buckeyes locked in on the defensive end, but their shots were falling.
Nelsonville-York made 10 of 18 3-point attempts — 55.6 percent — leaving the Redmen helpless to keep pace.
“When we’re hitting shots, we’re going to be tough,” Cassady, Nelsonville-York’s head coach, said.
Sinnott also spearheaded Nelsonville-York’s hot shooting night. She made all four of her 3-point attempts, also making a long 2-pointer in which her toes were on the line.
It was part of Sinnott’s game-high 16 points on 6 of 9 shooting. She added six rebounds, two steals and two assists.
“Coach yells at me a lot because I don’t have very much confidence in myself,” Sinnott said. “He just tells me to catch and shoot it, because I can. I did that against Wellston earlier in the season. When I don’t think about it, I do better. That’s kind of what I did tonight.”
Sinnott is always a defensive stalwart for the Buckeyes, but also shot with confidence against Rock Hill. The Redmen employed a 3-2 zone most of the game, and Sinnott was generally open.
Sinnott was able to make Rock Hill pay with her long-range makes.
“That’s what we need out of Grace, for her to not have any hesitation like she did,” Cassady said. “I’ve seen that out of her before. Hopefully that won’t be the last time.”
While the game was ultimately a runaway, Lucy Simpson helped Rock Hill hang around early in the game.
The senior guard scored eight first-quarter points, helping Rock Hill lead 10-7 at one point.
When Simpson posted up and scored on the block to start the second quarter, the Redmen trailed only 16-14. They had made 6 of their first 12 shots from the field.
That proved to be the high-water mark for the Redmen, as the Buckeyes won the final 23 minutes of action, 41-7.
It was a barrage of 3-pointers that allowed Nelsonville-York (19-4) to finally pull away. Sinnott spotted up twice on the left wing, swishing both for a 22-14 lead.
Mackenzie Hurd got in the action with her own 3-pointer for a 25-15 edge.
Those 3-pointers all came on assists from Joscelyn Heller. Sinnott happily passed out to Heller for her own 3-pointer, as the fourth consecutive Buckeye trey increased the lead to 28-15.
The Buckeyes made 6 of their first 11 3-point tries, going on a 16-1 run to lead 32-15 after Mackenzie Hurd’s excellent fast-break assist to Haley Hurd.
Haley Hurd caught a line-drive pass on the run, completing the transition basket at the rim late in the second quarter.
The Buckeyes continued to roll in the third quarter, scoring the first seven points of the frame to lead 39-17 after another Sinnott 3-pointer.
Nelsonville-York won the third quarter, 16-2, leading 48-19 after freshman Cayleigh Dupler got in on the 3-point fun with consecutive long-range swishes.
The Redmen finished 9 of 32 from the field, 28.1 percent. They missed 17 of their final 20 shots and finished the game with 16 turnovers.
The final six minutes of the game were played with a running clock after N-Y went ahead by 36 points, 55-19, on Alivia Speelman’s jumper.
“I challenged them a little bit at halftime because I thought they out hustled us on a few possessions,” Cassady said. “I didn’t like seeing that. I think we held them to four points the whole second half. Much better focus I thought.”
Mackenzie Hurd had 11 points, five rebounds and two assists, and enjoyed a seat on the bench for most of the second half thanks to N-Y’s big lead.
Dupler added 11 points off the bench — making a trio of 3-pointers. Haley Hurd had eight points, six rebounds and four steals, while Speelman had six points and five rebounds. Heller handed out a game-high six assists.
The Buckeyes return to Jackson High School for Saturday’s sectional championship game. They’ll take on No. 11 South Point at 6:15 p.m.
“This is the most exciting time of the year as far as basketball goes,” Cassady said. “Nothing’s going to be easy from here on out. We know we have to play well.”
South Point (13-8) defeated No. 22 Huntington 43-26 on Thursday in a game played at Valley High School.
The Buckeyes have won nine out of 10 games and are only the third team in program history to win at least 19 games, joining the 2007 and 2015 squads. One more win will advance them to the district tournament for what would be the sixth time in season seasons.
Sinnott said everyone in the Buckeyes’ locker room wants to continue to work.
“None of us want it to end,” she said. “We all love spending time with each other and just want to keep pushing through as long as we can. We’re coming here to win every single game.”
Nelsonville-York 57, Rock Hill 21
Rock Hill 12 5 2 2—21
Nelsonville-York 16 16 16 9—57
ROCK HILL 21 (5-16)
Savannah McGraw 1 0-0 2, Makyala Scott 0 1-4 1, Kellie Adams 0 0-0 0, Lucy Simpson 5 1-2 12, MaKenzie Hanshaw 3 0-0 6, Aleigha Matney 0 0-2 0, Emmi Stevens 0 0-0 0; TOTALS 9 2-8 21; 3-point field goals: 1 (Simpson 1)
NELSONVILLE-YORK 57 (19-4)
Ashleigh Cantrell 1 0-1 2, Joscelyn Heller 1 0-0 3, Grace Sinnott 6 0-0 16, Mackenzie Hurd 4 1-2 11, Haley Hurd 4 0-0 8, Alivia Speelman 2 2-2 6, Emma Fields 0 0-0 0, Cayleigh Dupler 4 0-0 11; TOTALS 22 3-5 57; 3-point field goals: 10 (Sinnott 4, Dupler 3, Mackenzie Hurd 2, Heller 1)
TEAM STATISTICS/INDIVIDUAL LEADERS
Field goals — Rock Hill 9-32 (.281), 3-point field goals 1-5 (.200); Nelsonville-York 22-53 (.415), 3-point field goals 10-18 (.556); Free throws — Rock Hill 2-8 (.250), Nelsonville-York 3-5 (.600); Rebounds — Rock Hill 23 (Simpson 9), Nelsonville-York 37 (Sinnott, Haley Hurd 6 apiece); Assists — Rock Hill 4 (Simpson 2); Nelsonville-York 15 (Heller 6); Blocks — Rock Hill 1 (Adams 1), Nelsonville-York 1 (Speelman 1); Turnovers — Rock Hill 16, Nelsonville-York 8; Steals — Rock Hill 4 (McGraw, Scott 2 apiece), Nelsonville-York 9 (Haley Hurd 4); Team fouls — Rock Hill 7, Nelsonville-York 7.