MANSFIELD — Kiyah Wentz couldn’t return to Mansfield Senior’s starting lineup soon enough.
After sitting out the past two game because of illness, Wentz scored 21 points as Senior High held off a furious Ashland rally for a 49-45 win Saturday at Pete Henry Gym.
A junior guard, Wentz scored the game’s first seven points as the Tygers raced to a 9-0 lead after the first quarter.
“I hit a few shots early and that gave me a lot of confidence,” Wentz said. “I was still pretty tired, but I had to push through.”
Back-to-back Wentz treys early in the fourth gave Senior High what appeared to be an insurmountable 45-28 lead with less than six minutes remaining. But the Arrows outscored the Tygers 17-4 the rest of the way to make it too close for comfort.
“I don’t know what it is about us and fourth quarters,” said Wentz, who could only watch from the bench earlier in the week as the Tygers let a double-digit fourth-quarter lead slip away in a loss to crosstown rival Madison. “I was like, ‘Let’s not let this happen again.’ ”
Ashland put together a 9-0 burst and cut Senior High’s lead to 45-37 on Cerena Miller’s offensive rebound and putback with 3:29 remaining. Annaleise Norris stopped the bleeding momentarily for the Tygers with a layup at the 2:45 mark to make it 47-37, but Ashland scored the next eight points and cut Senior High’s lead to 47-45 on back-to-back Makaree Chapman layups.
Monetta Hilory hit both ends of a one-and-one with 21.4 seconds showing to give Senior High a 49-45 lead. That is how it would end as the Arrows turned the ball over on the next-to-last possession and couldn’t get a shot up before the horn sounded.
“That is the energy we have been looking for all year,” second-year Ashland coach Renee Stimpert said. “When we play like that, we’re a scary team.
“We were down 17 points and in the past we would have folded. We would have folded last year and we would have folded earlier this year. It’s all part of the culture change.”
For Senior High, Saturday’s fourth-quarter meltdown was the continuation of a season-long trend. The Tygers have let several Ohio Cardinal Conference games slip away in the closing minutes this season.
“The story is the season for us is we’ll come out and play well early, but then we get a little complacent and we stop doing the things that got us there,” Senior High coach JeVar Hudgens said. “We’ve got to figure it out. The time is ticking and if we don’t figure it out, it’s going to be an early exit from the tournament.
“The conference losses that we have all have been self-inflicted.”
Juleah Windham backed Wentz with seven points. Hilory added six.
Chapman led Ashland with 15 points. Klaira Paramore added eight.