Monday, February 25th, 2019
Bulldogs fall; Riders move on
By Dave Stilwell
SPENCERVILLE - Defense was the name of the game Saturday night at Spencerville.
Wapakoneta and St. Marys grabbed girls Division II sectional titles in two low-scoring affairs. The Redskins limited Celina to just six field goals in taking the opener 39-17. The Roughriders pulled away in the fourth quarter to eliminate Shawnee 44-30 in the nightcap.
St. Marys and Wapakoneta will meet Thursday at 8 p.m. in the district semifinals at Paulding High School.
Wapakoneta 39, Celina 17
For Celina, open shots were hard to come by as Wapakoneta blocked or deflected many of the Bulldogs' early attempts.
"They play a very aggressive trapping, run-and-jump, man-to-man style of defense," Celina coach Cenzie Rushton said. "We knew it was coming in, so I can't say I was surprised by it. We just don't have strong enough ball-handling and basketball IQ to be able to attack some of that stuff.
"It got better all year, but at the end of the day, they (Wapakoneta) have a really talented team," Rushton continued. "They are really aggressive, very quick and it showed tonight."
Celina was 2-of-11 from the floor in the first quarter, and the shooting percentage never really improved as the game wore on.
Wapakoneta, seeded second in the Paulding District, came into the game with a first-round bye and a nine-day layoff since its final regular season game.
"The extra time to prepare was very helpful," Wapakoneta coach Rusty Allen said. "We were able to figure out our defensive rotation these last few practices and we told our girls, 'we have to contest all shots.'
"We felt the key was pressuring them full court," Allen added. "We kind of switched some things up defensively, trying to deny the inbounds pass and I think that flustered them a little bit."
Offensively, the Redskins were not flashy, but methodical with some back door layups early on. Eight of Wapak's first nine field goals came inside the paint.
"We ran a couple specials early on that we felt like would get the offense moving," Allen said. "That was the key for us - executing some of our offensive sets to start the game."
In contrast to Celina, Wapak was 5-of-8 from the floor in the first quarter, jumping out to an 11-4 lead. The Redskins stretched the margin to 20-8 at halftime and then went on a 9-1 run to open the second half.
By the time Sydney Howell scored the Bulldogs' first field goal of the second half with 2:20 left in the third quarter, Wapak had built a 20-point lead.
Celina held the Redskins to just 19 points in the second half, but shooting 18 percent from the floor, was unable to generate any kind of offensive run.
"The big thing this year, the goal for our coaching staff, was to establish a defensive identity and we definitely did that," Rushton said. "We held teams, on average, to 13 less points per game than we did last year."
Finishing the season at 7-17, Celina improved from a year ago - a trend that Rushton hopes continues.
"We're proud right now going from one win to seven wins, but it still hurts. We wanted to get this one and we felt that we could compete better than we showed tonight," she said. "I think we all realize that we took a big step as a program, and it's made everyone hungry to take some more steps, so we're excited to see what the future holds for Celina girls basketball."
St. Marys 44, Shawnee 30
With three freshmen in the starting lineup, St. Marys struggled out of the gate, but used some defensive pressure to slow Shawnee down early.
"Our young girls were nervous tonight. They had butterflies to start the game," St. Marys coach Jonathan Burke said, "But we just harped defense and said, 'Go out there and play hard.' "
The Roughriders were 1-of-8 from behind the three-point line in the first quarter, but forced eight Shawnee turnovers and led 12-9 after eight minutes.
After a layup by Lauren Cisco, junior Carly Caywood scored the next 12 points for the Roughriders who maintained a 20-14 lead at halftime.
"That's the nice thing about our team," Burke said. "We've got scorers that can step up on any given night. Tonight is was Carly. We don't light up stat lines because we don't have a player that is a lock down go-to person. We really count on all seven girls that go in."
Shawnee hit a pair of three-pointers early in the second half to cut the 'Riders' lead to 22-20.
Cisco and Ally Will answered with buckets for St. Marys, followed by treys from Elena Menker on back-to-back possessions for a 32-20 lead.
"We think Elena Menker is one of the best shooters in the area. Her percentages are great," Burke said. "She's got great form, but she's a freshman and hesitates to take shots. Tonight she stepped up and knocked them down. And those were timely shots."
Shawnee would get no closer than nine points the rest of the way and finished its season at 6-18.
The Roughriders, now 13-10, were led by Caywood with 20 points and Menker with 10.
St. Marys will get a second chance at Western Buckeye League foe Wapakoneta - a team they lost to in overtime early in the season.
"We had a three-point lead with 30 seconds to go and we didn't close it out," Burke said of the first meeting. "Wapak played a great game, but we feel like we've matured, and we would love that second shot against them."