McClain senior Maddy Stegbauer led all scorers with 17 points in the Lady Tigers' win over Miami Trace, Wednesday at MHS. (HCP Photos/Stephen Forsha)
McClain senior Maddy Stegbauer led all scorers with 17 points in the Lady Tigers' win over Miami Trace, Wednesday at MHS. (HCP Photos/Stephen Forsha)
GREENFIELD — The first battle between two Frontier Athletic Conference rivals went to the home team on Wednesday night. Playing a tough game on both sides of the ball, the McClain Tigers and Miami Trace Lady Panthers battled until the final buzzer, but when time expired it was McClain who was standing tall, winning by a 37-35 score.

The win stood out for McClain head coach Jarrod Haines for the fact he was pleased with the play and leadership of his seniors throughout the game, which eventually turned into a two-point victory.

“We played so well together. We do so many good things, and so many kids came in and did good things,” Haines said. “Our seniors really brought it tonight and led us to the win.

“Maddy led us in scoring and did an excellent job. Bryn Karnes was great off the boards, and Kelli Uhrig took a huge charge and made a huge shot. She played great defense and had physical play and just absolutely got after it and did an awesome job. Liz (Kegley) came in and did a great job, and Macie Adams was all over it down the sideline being our number-one supporter. That is a true teammate. She is a model teammate, and you don’t get those every day.

“My five seniors really brought it and gave it everything they had," Haines continued. "I’m super, super proud of them.”

Stegbauer led the Lady Tigers with 17 points on the night, with 10 points in the first half. Miami Trace was led by Shay McDonald with 13 points.

The game began with a strong defensive effort from both sides of the FAC rivalry, but it was McClain who first scored points with two consecutive baskets by Karnes. Miami Trace came back with two points from Cassidy Lovett, followed by a 3-pointer from Jaelyn Pitzer to put McClain ahead by a 7-2 score.

Miami Trace answered with a layup by McDonald, but Maddy Stegbauer equaled that feat for a 9-4 McClain lead with 2:35 left in the first. Fifteen seconds later, the final points of the first were posted with points by Lovett.

With McClain leading by a 9-6 score, the scoring picked up at the start of the second frame. Cierra Bolender sank a jumper, and two points by Stegbauer left MHS ahead 13-6.

Miami Trace answered with a 3-pointer from Gracee Stewart, but McClain was there with the next five points with four points from Stegbauer and a free throw by Pitzer for a lead of 18-9.

The Lady Panthers came back with a bucket, but the defense of McClain stood strong with a big-time charge taken by Uhrig at the 3:43 mark of the second.

As the quarter progressed, the Lady Panthers got to within a point of McClain at the 1:51 mark of the second for a 18-17 deficit, but the Lady Tigers held strong and didn’t relinquish the lead to stay in front by a 22-20 score at halftime.

“Jaelyn, Emma (Stegbauer), Kyla (Burchett) and Brianna (Weller) all did some really good things,” Haines said. “Cierra Bolender gave us some really good minutes, and this was a total team effort and a team win.”

There were a combined 15 points scored in the third frame, and for McClain, it was a forgettable quarter of action as the Lady Panthers not only tied the game but took the lead for the first time in the game around the 4:00 mark off a jumper from McDonald.

McClain tied the score at 26 when Stegbauer stole the ball and went to the basket for two points with 3:13 left in the third. MT came back with the final three points of the quarter for a lead of 29-26.

“We lost sight of what we were trying to do for a while, but we were ready to overcome it,” Haines said. “Jaelyn and Kelli hit some big shots, and we had some big steals.”

Miami Trace — holding a three-point lead — wanted to not just slow down the game, but bring it to a complete halt. They played pass-and-catch outside the three-point line for nearly a minute, but a faulty pass saw them lose possession of the ball, and McClain came ready to play in the final seven minutes of action.

Rather than play keep-away with the basketball, the Lady Tigers went right at the Lady Panthers and took the lead at the 6:50 mark with points in the paint by Stegbauer.

McClain then forced a jump ball with help from Emma Stegbauer. One minute later, the Lady Tigers added to their lead with a 3-pointer from Pitzer off a pass from Karnes.

That basket was answered with a trey by McDonald with 5:16 left in the game, but McClain came back just as strong with a 3-pointer by Uhrig in front of their own student section with 4:25 left in the game, giving MHS the lead back at 34-32.

MT made it a one-point differential with a made free throw, but with 1:50 left on the scoreboard, Maddy Stegbauer took over with a layup off a long inbounds pass from Pitzer for three-point lead.

Miami Trace had chances to tie the score but missed a 3-pointer with 42.3 on the clock, and MHS came back with a free throw from Maddy Stegbauer for a four-point advantage with 17.8 remaining.

The final two points at the buzzer were scored by Miami Trace’s Delaney Eakins.

“I told the girls before the game, in a game like this, the team that wins comes up with the big plays, and that charge by Kelli Uhrig, that’s the kind of play that wins all games,” Haines said.

For the game, McClain was 2-of-8 from the free throw line, including going 1-for-6 in the fourth quarter. Miami Trace was 3-for-6 in the game.

“It was a battle all game. We gave it everything we had,” Haines said. “It is tough. You have to look within, you have to look with your heart and Maddy helped with the biggest shot of the night.”

McClain improves to 2-0 in the FAC and 4-0 overall, while Miami Trace falls to 1-1 in the FAC and 2-2 on the season.

Next for the Lady Tigers, they will be back in action at home on Saturday, Dec. 8 against Huntington in non-conference play with a JV start of noon.