The stars came out to play Tuesday night at Wright State University’s Nutter Center in the girls basketball Division I Fairborn Regional Semifinals with some of the state’s top talent taking the court as Cincinnati Mount Notre Dame, Mason, Kettering Fairmont and Beavercreek were all in action.
FAIRBORN – The stars came out to play Tuesday night at Wright State University’s Nutter Center in the girls basketball Division I Fairborn Regional Semifinals with some of the state’s top talent taking the court on both sides of the bracket.
In the opener, Cincinnati Mount Notre Dame cruised past Mason 56-32 to reach the regional finals for the seventh straight season.
The Cougars (24-1) are on the prowl for an unprecedented fourth straight Division I state title.
Pacing MND was senior forward and Southern California recruit Kendall Hackney with 23 points, seven rebounds and two blocked shots.
“I just feel like we were all working together as a team and that just makes everybody better,” Hackney said.
Hackney got off to a slow start netting just eight points in the first half but settled in after the break finding her shot and disrupting Mason’s offense in the paint.
“In the first half, I was looking to get my teammates shots and they knocked them down, which was great,” Hackney said. “I feel like our team came out together on defense, which was key, and I was just trying to take the shots I could get.
“In the second half, I started getting looks and things started to open up. I was just trying to get my touch and I think it all just came together. I happened to get the looks and tried my best to knock the shots down.”
Sophomore guard Kathryn Reynolds, one of Ohio’s tops prospects for the 2011 class, was the second leading scorer for MND with 12 points adding five rebounds, three assists and a steal.
“I think everybody on our team has been focused since the tournament started. Everyone has just gotten right down to it at practice,” Reynolds said. “With the experience of everyone on the team and the seniors, it makes it a lot easier for me and the other underclassmen.”
Said MND head coach Dante Harlan: “She is getting over her knee injury and she was slow returning but has played through it and is getting back in rhythm now. She understands she needs to be a part of things for us to get back to Columbus.”
Senior wing Gabby Smith tallied nine points, three steals and two assists as the Vanderbilt recruit also got off to a bit of a slow start and was forced to the bench after getting into foul trouble playing just under 21 minutes.
“I think I came out with a little too much emotion and it got the best of me with the fouls,” Smith said. “But I always trust my teammates and I don’t care if I get in foul trouble because someone off the bench will come in and do exactly what I would have done and that is comforting to know.”
“Gabby played a heck of a game and she plays with a lot of emotion at times,” Harlan added. “When she is that focused, I will take those fouls because she is trying to make plays and is playing hard.”
Ohio signee Ashley Fowler didn’t get into the points column but had three assists and five steals.
“Ashley’s value to this team is never measured by her points,” Harlan said of his senior floor general. “She disrupts every team’s offense and that is what she did. She disrupted everybody that brought the ball up. She has a controlled tempo for us and she has to keep these young ladies up”
In the losing effort, Mason (19-5) senior center and Eastern Kentucky recruit Michaelea Kleist recorded a double-double with 16 points and 10 rebounds. She also had three blocks and three steals.
“I just went out there and did what I do,” Kleist said. “I think we took our program to the next level. Coming back from last year we took the next step in the right direction.”
Added Mason head coach Rob Matula, “I think, honestly, (Kleist) was the only player that stepped out on the floor and played like a big player. That is to her credit. She has worked hard to get out there to this spot and she showed it. She is very capable of playing.”
In the nightcap, Greater Western Ohio Conference Central rivals and regular season conference co-champions Beavercreek and Kettering Fairmont squared off to advance in the tournament after splitting two regular season meetings.
The rubber match belonged to Fairmont as the Firebirds flew past Beavercreek 47-22 to advance to the regional finals.
Fairmont (22-3) edged Beavercreek 34-33 in late December but the Beavers (31-3) responded with a 35-32 win in early February.
Fairmont senior guard and Ohio Dominican recruit Tenia Scarver led all stat-getters with 11 points, two rebounds and an assist.
“I thought (the game) would be a lot closer,” Scarver said. “We were on top of our game.”
Junior Cassie Sant, who is considered the No. 9 post player in the country for her position by ESPN in the 2010 class, had nine points, four rebounds and three assists.
Findlay signee Kendra Elam had eight points and three rebounds from the guard position.
“I think it was a good win,” Elam said. “Coming into the game we knew it was a tough game and we had to win. We just came out and played our hardest and it was a great outcome.
“I thought it would be a lot closer but we came out strong and they just weren’t ready for it.”
Senior forward and West Virginia Wesleyan recruit Brianna Welch tallied eight points and three rebounds going 4-for-4 from the foul line.
“I thought our kids played they best they’ve played all year tonight,” Fairmont head coach Tim Cogan said.
“Without question, (Sant) did a phenomenal job. Our guards not only did an excellent job defending but handled the ball well attacking the hoop on offense.”
For Beavercreek, highly touted wing and Stanford recruit Mikaela Ruef was held to just 10 points on 3-of-16 shooting and 4-of-5 from the charity stripe.
“We thought it was a grudge match and we really wanted to win but it just didn’t work out,” Ruef said. “We had a hard time running our plays against them because they know a lot of our plays and we get frustrated when they know our plays.
“When we can’t (shoot) from the outside, we can’t really make them guard us.”
Beavercreek was 2-for-20 shooting from the field in the first half and 7-for-43 for the game.
“When you do that, you are not putting any pressure on anybody, so it made it easy for them,” Beavercreek head coach Ed Zink said. “We were putting no pressure on them and they had no reason to panic.”
MND and Fairmont are set to square off Saturday at the Nutter Center for a noon tip with the regional championship on the line and a trip to next week’s state tournament.
It is only the second time in school history Fairmont has reached the regional finals. The last time was in 1986.
The two teams have met twice this season with MND notching a 67-49 win in late November and a 54-40 win in late December.
“We’re going to have to work really hard this week – really, really hard,” Scarver said.