By Ryan Kaczmarski
The North Olmsted girls varsity basketball team ran with Magnificat for the first half of the sectional finals game Saturday at Elyria Catholic High School, but the Blue Streaks’ second half surge put down the Eagles for good, 76-36.
Magnificat held a precarious 14-8 first quarter lead, and expanded its lead to 37-22 by the half.
“Our talk at halftime was that, in the tournament, anything can happen,” Magnificat head coach Meghann Hubach said. “You cannot allow teams to stick around, and I thought that in the first half, our half-court defense was not great. We were kind of getting blown by and we weren’t protecting the dribble as we should have.
“We kept sending them to the free throw line (in the first half) and we cannot afford to do that – give teams free points.”
Magnificat (15-7) has a very young team this year, with only two seniors and featuring four freshmen.
“Being a young team, not playing in the tournament before, there was some anxiousness and some quick shots that maybe shouldn’t have been taken,” Hubach said.
In the second half, the Blue Streaks put the pedal down and held the Eagles to just four third-quarter points, while expanding the lead to 58-26, and never looked back.
“We harped on rebounding (in the second half), and I think we got a couple rebounds that allowed us to leak out a little bit and make some runs,” Hubach stated. “We kind of settled in a little more and turned up the energy.”
For Hubach, the hope is that her young team got the postseason jitters out of the way in this game, and will be able to go on a long run into regionals.
“We talked a lot about the sense of urgency and that in the postseason anything can happen,” she said. “Each and every day you have to come in and get what you’ve got and do your job, because just as quickly as you set foot on the floor, you can be walking off the floor for the last time that season. We also used the fact that we earned the No. 1 seed, and I said now that you’ve earned it, go out and show that you deserve it, and play like you’re the No. 1 seed.”
Magnificat’s Bridget Pryatel led all scoring in the game with 16 points, followed by Phoebe Sterba with 13 points and Claire Martin with 10. Erica Keifer led the Eagles in scoring with nine points.
Magnificat moves on to play Avon tonight in the district semifinals, and Hubach sees the game as a good matchup for her team.
“Avon battled well against Avon Lake (Avon won 45-41) and they have no ‘let-up’ at all,” she said. “They’re a young team as well, but I think that our strength of schedule (during the regular season) will help us a little bit and I’m hoping that when push comes to shove, in a close game, that will work to our advantage.”
North Olmsted finishes the season with an overall record of 10-13, but head coach Cheryl Bansek was proud of how her girls played against the No. 1 seed.
“I thought defensively, we played a great game,” she said. “We dominated the glass.
“We just freaked out on offense. We told (the players) at halftime, you have to take care of the ball. Good teams will exploit you there, if you don’t take care of the ball, and that’s what (Magnificat) did. They’re a great shooting team. That’s a good basketball team.”