COLUMBUS – Sugarcreek Garaway girls basketball fans were sporting t-shirts at the Division III state semifinal game against Mt. Blanchard Riverdale that read, “Excellence is not an act, but a habit,” quoting philosopher Aristotle.
And the Lady Pirates were excellent Saturday at Ohio State’s Schottenstein Center pulling away from Riverdale 45-28 for their tenth straight win and a berth in Saturday’s state championship game.
In an up tempo, physical, back-and-forth match up, the game was a lot closer than the score might indicate.
“All the credit in the world goes to Riverdale,” said Garaway head coach Scott Bardall. “I think they played athletic in the first half and were far more disciplined than some of the teams we’ve had to go up against in the tournament.”
Garaway (25-2) clung to a 15-14 lead at halftime and a 24-21 lead after three quarters but pulled away in the final frame outscoring Riverdale 21-7.
The Lady Falcons went just 2-for-10 from the field in the fourth quarter.
“Defensively both teams were playing tough and had we made some of those (shots), we might have been the team on the other end and they would have been coming at us,” Riverdale head coach Maryann Holderman said.
The Lady Pirates put the defensive pressure on Riverdale in the fourth quarter to pull away and went an astounding 14-for-16 from the free throw line.
Senior guard and first team All-Ohio selection Laura Bardall paced Garaway with 18 points and eight rebounds. She hit back-to-back three-pointers in the third quarter to put Garaway up 22-19 setting the tone for the second half.
“I haven’t taken as many threes as I thought I would this year but it just came to me and I shot it, let it go and trusted my ability,” she said.
Fellow senior guard Erica Hershberger added 10 points and one board.
Garaway shot 54.2 percent (13-of-24) from the floor to Riverdale’s 20 percent (8-of-40) performance, respectively.
“We made our goal defensively, it’s offensively where I think we struggled,” Holderman said. “I think we rushed some of our shots and the majority of the season those shots were falling. I give credit to Garaway’s defense because it made it tough for us to get some shots off that we normally get.”
Riverdale junior wing Kayla Brown led the Lady Falcons with 13 points but only two of those came in the second half.
For Garaway, this is the third trip to the state tournament for the Lady Pirates. They qualified in 2006 but fell to eventual state runner-up Youngstown Ursuline 39-31 in the semifinal game.
“In 2006, we were just so happy to get here and there was almost a feeling of satisfaction even after we lost,” Bardall said. “This was just completely different. I wanted to come down here and get a win and make it to the title game. It feels so much better.”
Garaway is scheduled to meet Versailles Saturday, March 8 at 5:15 p.m. for the Division III state championship. Versailles (27-0) cruised past South Euclid Regina 75-60 in the other semifinal game.
THE BARDALL STALL
Garaway controlled the tempo well dictating the pace of the game. Midway through the fourth quarter leading 31-23, the Lady Pirates held onto the ball passing it around the perimeter to milk the clock for 1:06 before Katie Hall found freshman Sarah Bardall under the hoop for the layup to put the Lady Pirates up 10.
“Truthfully, I was afraid we were a little fast early in the game taking the first available shot and not necessarily the best shot we wanted to take,” Bardall said. “How we try and control tempo is how we play defensively and also by rolling the ball over swinging it side to side.”
Said Holderman, “When a team is that patient on offense and then you’re trying to make the tempo quicker and don’t make those shots, it puts on more pressure when you do get the ball and try to hard.”
With 5:07 left in the game, Laura Bardall stepped to the line for two free throw attempts sinking the first. One of the officials noticed she had blood on her jersey and a bloodied knee thus forcing her out of the game to clean up. Guard Trish Seilhamer stepped to the line and made the second shot.
Unable to clean the blood from her jersey, Bardall ditched her No. 10 jersey and switched uniforms with teammate Molly Gerber wearing No. 25 for the rest of the game.
“It was a really physical game. You just had to keep your elbows out and stay strong,” Bardall said. “I think we let it get to us in the first half but in the second half we kind of calmed down and just played the way we know how to.”
Sarah and Laura Bardall are the daughters of head coach Scott Bardall, who took over the Garaway girls program four years ago.
Dave Mast, who was an assistant on the 2006 state semifinalist team, is grandfather to Sarah and Laura and father-in-law to Scott.
He was on hand for the semifinal game.
“I thought they played really well (today),” said Mast. “Laura is an outstanding shooter and is just an outstanding player overall. But she’s got some compliments there, too.”
Mast even did some coaching from the stands as the Bardall sisters and their teammates periodically looked in his direction as he was yelling advice.
He also joined the team in the locker room at halftime.
“I’d be a fool not to accept somebody who’s got 35 years in the game and he sees things. More importantly, these kids believe in him,” said Scott Bardall, who was named the Division III coach of the year. “Why shouldn’t we use any aide we can to help these kids be successful?”
Mast had two head coaching stints at Warsaw River View where he recorded a 314-192 mark winning the 1982 Class AA state championship.
His daughter, Caroline Daugherty, was a player on that team and led River View to back-to-back Division II state titles in 2006 and 2007 as head coach with her husband Bill as an assistant. Her daughters Kristen and Kari played on both those championship teams.
Kristen is now a freshman at the University of Dayton. Kari, a junior at River View, is already committed to Dayton and Sarah is a Findlay recruit.
So, in the past three seasons, Mast has had four grandchildren play in a state title game and two sons-in-law and a daughter coach for a championship.
“It is very gratifying, to say the least,” Mast said.
Laura Bardall with father and coach Scott Bardall
Identical twins Kelli and Kristi Kotterman of Riverdale combined for six points and five rebounds in the game.
The Kotterman’s are the second set of twins to participate in the state tournament this weekend as Lima Bath featured juniors Rachel and Stefanie Mauk.