Faith White drives in for a short-range shot in her team’s Saturday win at Wellington School that moved them into the Division IV district semifinals.

Rob Hamilton | Morrow County Sentinel

A strong defensive effort paved the way for the Mount Gilead Lady Indians to earn their second straight Division IV sectional title on Saturday.

Competing at Wellington School in Columbus, the Indians were outscored in the second quarter 15-6 to find themselves in a 19-15 hole at the half, but took a 14-4 advantage in the third period to regain the advantage and never looked back in earning a 36-26 decision over the Jaguars.

After his team got out to a slow start in their sectional opener earlier in the week, MG coach Nick Vukovich said that it was important for his players to start the contest against Wellington with energy and intensity.

“We talked about it all week,” he said. “The last game, we came out flat, so our biggest point of emphasis for this game was to start the game with the energy we finished the last game with. I felt we did that today and that energy is what carried us. In the second quarter, I felt Wellington took advantage — they had the energy. In that second half, I thought we had energy and we were just playing above and they had to try to catch us, which is what we want teams to do.”

The Indians trailed 4-2 at the 4:43 mark of the opening period, but would not give the Jaguars another point in the quarter. Olivia Long hit a shot to tie the score and Faith White finished the first with five straight points to stake MG to a 9-4 lead.

Two free throws by White to open the second quarter made it a seven-point game, but Wellington quickly battled back, rallying behind five points by Eladie Ware in tying things up at 11. Another bucket by White gave the Indians a 13-11 lead with 5:37 to go in the half, but the team only was able to get a Greer Simpson basket the rest of the way as their opponents were able to open up a four-point lead going into the break.

The third quarter would be a different story. Mount Gilead opened the period with back-to-back three-pointers by Simpson and White to regain the lead at 21-19. Wellington would tied the score at 21 with 3:39 to go in the quarter, but a three-pointer by Danielle Pohlkotte gave the Indians the lead for good.

A bucket by the Jaguars made it a one-point game at 24-23, but Mount Gilead finished the third with a three by Kendall Neal and a White basket to hold a six-point edge going into the fourth.

Vukovich noted that his team does well when they focus on a strong defensive effort.

“When we play with high energy, our defense is good and that carries over to the offensive end,” he said. “Our girls finally realized we have to be a defensive team first. We’ve been doing this defense all year. We executed it fairly well today and that translated to the offensive end. The girls shot with confidence today. I thought everything was positive today.”

Strong defense and seven made free throws in the fourth quarter allowed Mount Gilead to add to their lead in the fourth quarter and earn the team’s second straight sectional title. Unlike last year’s, this one was done entirely on the road.

“We had to go on the road for two games, but all this does is prep us for districts,” said Vukovich. “We knew if we got out of here, we’d probably have to play Newark Catholic, the number four team in the state, but we knew it was going to be on the road. So we went this route to prep for that, so hopefully we’re calm and we know we’re not playing at home in the confines in our gym. Hopefully, it’s doing a great job of prepping us for what we have to do.”

White scored 17 points to lead the Indian effort, while Pohlkotte contributed eight.

Rob Hamilton can be reached at 419-946-3010, ext. 1807. Connect with him on Twitter at @SportsMCS