It was a wild night in Mineral Ridge for a sectional final doubleheader in the girls Division III tournament and Columbiana upsets Youngstown Ursuline and South Range survives Waterloo in overtime.
Anthony Maluso has more from both games.
MINERAL RIDGE – It was a wild night in Mineral Ridge for a sectional final doubleheader in the girls Division III tournament.
One seeded team fell, while another survived an overtime scare. When the smoke cleared, it was two conference rivals from the Inter-Tri County League advancing to the district semifinals.
The district’s top seed, the South Range Raiders will face the upstart Columbiana Clippers.
In the first game of the doubleheader, Columbiana shocked the third seeded Ursuline Lady Irish 53-49. The Clippers built an early lead, stretched it out to 14 points in the fourth quarter, but had to survive a furious Ursuline rally to hold on for the win.
The inside game, what seemed on paper to be a mismatch in favor of the Irish, turned out to be one of the biggest factors in Columbiana’s upset. Ursuline’s front court featured four players over six feet tall, while Columbiana’s tallest player is listed at 5-foot-9. Yet the Clippers’ forward combination of Katie Douglas and Katie Whitmer scored 12 and 11 points respectively and Ursuline was only able to get a two rebound edge in the game 37-35.
“Douglas and Whitmer battled all game against two of their big girls inside,” said Clipper head coach Jeff Hammond. “They limited their scoring and never got in foul trouble.
“We couldn’t let them get second and third opportunities. We did a good job limiting them to only one shot. We felt we were controlling the boards.”
Columbiana was able to build their lead early thanks in part to sub-par shooting on Ursuline’s side. In the first half, the Lady Irish were only 6-for-29 shooting for 20 percent, while Columbiana shot 12-for-29 for 41 percent.
“We came out extremely flat,” admitted Ursuline head coach Sean Durkin. “There is no excuse for that come tournament time and we ran out of clock at the end. Normally our offense flows off our defensive pressure, but with them breaking our press, it took us out of rhythm.”
The Clippers took control towards the end of the first half, outscoring Ursuline 10-3 to end the second quarter. When Ursuline appeared it would go into the locker room with momentum off a three point shot from Samantha Smith, the Clippers found an answer like they did for everything Ursuline would come with all game. Clippers senior Jen Gross hit a three pointer of her own with only three seconds left to send Columbiana into halftime with a 30-19 lead.
In the second half, it seemed to be a different Ursuline team taking the floor, coming out aggressive starting the half on a 7-2 run. This time Columbiana turned to Douglas for the answer. She scored six points in the quarter to turn momentum back in Columbiana’s favor and by the end of the third, Ursuline was only able to shave a single point off the Clippers’ lead.
Columbiana build their lead up to 14 points at 44-30 during the first moments of the fourth quarter, until Ursuline responded with a fury.
A three pointer from Lucia Peters started Ursuline on a streak of 13 unanswered points closing the gap to only one.
“At a timeout I saw (the girls) were a little shell shocked,” said Coach Hammond. “We were able to keep our composure, and every time they made a run, we were able to hit a bucket or come up with a stop.”
Seeing their lead nearly evaporate, Columbiana was able to answer with a six point run of their own, but had to survive another Ursuline fury until Courtney Kerrigan iced the game with a foul shot that put the Clippers up four with only 18 seconds left and the defense was able to preserve the victory and the upset.
“We all came out and knew we had to play hard,” said Gross. “We knew we could beat them if we all played together. We couldn’t do it without supporting each other.”
While Columbiana was celebrating their upset victory, they watched as neighboring rival South Range battled the Waterloo Vikings. They witnessed a first half where South Range played like the number one seed, building up a 30-21 halftime lead.
Unfortunately for Columbiana, the team bus left before the real fireworks began.
The lead changed hands four times in the final two minutes of regulation before the game was sent to overtime. Despite their best player fouling out, South Range was able to survive with a 56-53 overtime victory.
“As a coach it’s a pretty helpless feeling,” said South Range head coach Matt Reel. “You just got to hope your girls execute. The last two minutes and overtime were just two teams going at it hard. It was just a great girl’s basketball game.”
Autumn Carter, the lone senior on South Range’s roster led the Raiders with 14 points and seven rebounds in the first half as South Range built their lead. However, as foul trouble started to hamper Carter in the third quarter, Waterloo began their comeback.
Waterloo forced seven South Range turnovers in the third quarter, while not committing any themselves to start trimming down the South Range lead. Senior Ashley Bault led Waterloo with 13 points through three quarters. When South Range started to lock her down in the fourth, fellow senior Brianna Cross and junior Sarah Wojciechowski took over the offensive end of the floor.
Trailing 38-30, Waterloo turned the defense up another notch in the fourth forcing nine Raider turnovers in the quarter to get them back in the game.
“They have probably one of the best guards we’ve seen all year in Wojciechowski,” said Coach Reel. “We didn’t handle the ball well, gave the momentum, and Wojciechowski led them back.”
Twice Waterloo was able to creep within two points, but both times Caitlin Carter was able to answer with baskets to push back up the South Range lead. Finally after the third time Waterloo snuck within two, Wojciechowski was able to come up with the turning point, coming up with a steal and driving to the hoop for a lay-up that tied the game with 2:16 left on the clock.
Wojciechowski was then able to give the Vikings their first lead at 44-43 with only 1:10 remaining. Wojciechowski would score ten points in the fourth quarter alone and finished with 20 for the game.
With their backs up against the wall, Autumn Carter would come right back with a basket to put her team back in front. Carter would share game high with Wojciechowski with 20 points and also added 12 rebounds.
The two teams would go back and fourth like a classic heavyweight title fight. Cross would put Waterloo back in front and Patty Schuster would come back to answer for South Range. After Caitlin Carter split a pair of foul shots, Waterloo found themselves down two and Cross would tie the game with only 15 seconds left.
With a chance to win it in regulation, Caitlin Carter followed up a missed shot with a put back, but it came just fractions of a second after the buzzer sounded to end regulation.
During the extra session, South Range would jump in front mostly thanks to Caitlin Carter who was 6-for-12 from the foul line in overtime. She was able to add the scoring punch after sister Autumn fouled out.
With her team now trailing 54-52 Wojciechowski had a chance to tie the game from the foul line, but only was able to split the pair of shots. Caitlin Carter left the door open for Waterloo by only splitting a pair of her own from the foul line, but came up with a key steal with 20 seconds left, preventing Waterloo from getting a tying shot off.
Waterloo still had one last chance trailing by three in the closing seconds but Wojciechowski missed a three point shot and Bault missed a tip in as the final seconds ticked off the clock sending South Range to the District Semifinals.
They will face Columbiana for the third time this season with the two teams splitting the regular season contests.
“Columbiana did a great job against Ursuline,” said Coach Reel. “It’s a credit to the coaches in this league and the players in this league. We’re expecting another close game. Jeff (Hammond) is doing a great job, and they’re playing their best basketball of the season.”
South Range and Columbiana will have their rubber match next Thursday at Mineral Ridge with the team left standing, advancing to the district finals.