Regina earns chance to tie state record with sixth championship

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Regina sophomore Therany Dunnigan scored a game-high 17 points in the Royals D-III semifinal win. (Photo by Gary Housteau)

Last year South Euclid Regina got blindsided in the Division III state semifinals, losing its first game in six state trips. Thursday the Royals returned to form. Regina will play for an all-divisions record-tying sixth state title Saturday thanks to a 59-30 win over Findlay Liberty-Benton in the D-III semifinals at OSU’s Schottenstein Center.


COLUMBUS ­­– Last year South Euclid Regina got blindsided in the Division III state semifinals, losing its first game in six state appearances. Thursday the Royals returned to form.

Regina plays for an all-divisions record-tying sixth state title Saturday thanks to a 59-30 win over Findlay Liberty-Benton in the D-III semifinals at OSU’s Schottenstein Center.

The Royals are now 11-1 in the state tournament, the lone loss coming to Versailles in last year’s semis. Regina has made all seven of its trips to Columbus since 2000.

One thing the Royals, ranked No. 2 in the final AP state poll, haven’t done is had an undefeated season. They’re one win away from that as well. Regina is 26-0.

“26-0 doesn’t matter unless we get to 27-0,” Regina junior point guard Tay’ler Mingo said. “Then we can discuss it as far as going down in history.”

“After the regular season, I told the girls that we did not plan to be undefeated – now we have no choice,” Regina head coach Pat Diulus said. “We knew that to make this run we had to remain undefeated. (Going undefeated) is not our goal. It certainly never has been, but you lose one now and you call the dry cleaner. We’re not looking to do that.”

Liberty-Benton (23-2), ranked No. 4 in the state and playing in its first state semifinal, was game for much of the contest. The Eagles took a 3-0 lead and trailed just 14-10 at the end of the first quarter. Regina led 30-23 at the half.

L-B was aided in the first two quarters by Regina foul trouble. Mingo, one of the country’s top players in the Class of 2010, picked up three first half fouls, while senior forward Jackie Cook, headed to Old Dominion, picked up two.

The Royals were able to establish their first half advantage, though, thanks in part to the play of 6-2 sophomore center Therany Dunnigan who scored 11 of her game-high 17 points in the first 16 minutes. She also grabbed six rebounds and shot 8-of-9 from the floor for the game.

“There’s no question about it, that’s the best that (Dunnigan) has played,” Diulus said. “Before the game I said ‘T, are you nervous.’ She said ‘Not at all.’ A coach always likes to hear that kind of stuff.”

In the third quarter, Dunnigan, Mingo and Cook got things rolling for Regina by making back-to-back-to-back baskets as the Royals took a 37-23 lead. They led 45-28 after the third.

With his team down 54-30 with 2:59 left, L-B head coach Nate Irwin pulled his starters to a standing ovation.

The Eagles were outscored 29-7 in the second half.

Game, set, match.

“I thought we did what we could,” Irwin said. “Regina is a very talented team and it was just a matter of time before they wore us down. Their defense is unbelievable.”

Said Diulus: “We made a slight adjustment at half and came out in the second half and played defense like we never have before. I’m not sure how many points they had in the second half but it wasn’t a lot. We took away pretty much everything they wanted to do.”

In addition to Dunnigan’s double-double, Regina also got big games from Mingo and Cook. Mingo scored 12 points and had five rebounds and four assists. Cook had a double-double with 11 points and 11 rebounds.

As a team the Royals blistered the nets, shooting 54.5-percent from the floor. They also outrebounded the Eagles 36-19.

“We didn’t come in with a gameplan where we were going to try to feature any one player,” Diulus said. “We did come in with a gameplan to get the ball inside because we didn’t think they could compete with us inside and that’s pretty much the way it was. Every coach loves defense and rebounding and today was one of those games.”

L-B was led by standout junior Amanda Hyde who exited the game early with a dislocated finger but returned to a chorus of cheers in the second quarter. She ended with six points, five rebounds and two steals. Freshman Catie Craft scored a team-high 11 points.

The Eagles, who thrive on the 3-pointer, shot just 26.7-percent (4-of-15) from behind the arc. L-B had been shooting over 35-percent for the season.

The Eagles shot 25.6-percent overall (11-of-43).

“The way they were able to guard us was frustrating,” Irwin said. “They had a little more team speed and a little more depth. We haven’t seen anything like their speed all year. They forced us away from the basket and into uncomfortable spots that we just weren’t used to in the previous 24 games. That was by far the best team we’ve faced.”

Regina faces Oak Hill at 2 p.m. on Saturday for the D-IV title.

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