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It was a night of firsts when Malvern took on Frontier in a girls basketball district semifinal at Martins Ferry High School.
The Lady Cougars had no answer for Kelsi Hulit. The junior poured in 33 points and grabbed 14 rebounds in powering the Lady Hornets to a 60-50 victory.
With the win, Malvern advances to its first-ever district final, and set a school-record for wins at 21.
Hunter Martin connected on a 3-pointer less than 10 seconds into the contest and the Lady Hornets never trailed the rest of the way.
Six straight points from Hulit increased Malvern's lead to 12-5. The Lady Hornets would settle for a 19-14 advantage after the opening eight minutes of play.
Martin started the second stanza with another deep ball, and Hulit scored on a nice inside move, giving the Lady Hornets a 24-14 lead. Both teams traded buckets for the remainder of the half, with Malvern taking a 30-22 advantage into intermission.
Frontier fought back in the third frame, closing the gap to 41-37 heading into the final eight minutes of regulation.
Martin made two spectacular plays to open up the final stanza. The senior connected on a 3-ball, and tipped a rebound to a wide-open Hulit for an easy bucket, stretching the lead to 46-37.
Frontier did not fold, and cut the lead to four twice, the second coming with 2:13 remaining.
Hulit made sure there would be no come-from-behind victory for the Lady Cougars, as she scored 10 points over the final 1:49.
Martin finished with 12 points, six assists, five rebounds and four steals.
Tara Tucci added eight points, six rebounds and six assists; and LeaEllen Leslie added three points and two boards.
"It felt great to win our first district game in school history," commented Head Coach Doug Wackerly. "I thought we played well against a good Frontier team that played us tough
"Hunter did an excellent job disrupting their offense and Tara did an outstanding job against their best offensive player. Our whole team did a great job getting their zone spread and getting Kelsi the ball to allow her to have a special night with 33 points. We made our shots, limited our turnovers and hit our foul shots to get the win."
The top two teams in the IVC took to the court at Dover High School with a district title on the line.
The Lady Hornets had the daunting task of taking on the state's top-ranked team in Hiland.
The Lady Hawks showed why they are the favorites to win a state championship in Division IV as they dominated Malvern 80-41.
Hiland led 24-6 at the end of the opening quarter, 45-17 at halftime, and 64-32 heading into the final frame.
Hulit paced the way for the Lady Hornets with 18 points and four rebounds. Goldsworthy had eight points and seven boards; Tucci had seven points and three rebounds; and Martin had three points, eight rebounds and five steals.
"We had a rough day," noted Coach Wackerly. "We knew it would be tough. "They are ranked number one for a reason. I have to give Hiland a lot of credit. They made us play a lot faster then we wanted to.
"I told the kids that we had a bad day, but a great year. These seniors have played in 71 wins. They are first-time runner ups in the IVC and the district. We have a lot to be proud of."