By Amy Rutledge
Even with a solid effort, North Olmsted was no match for the top-seeded Magnificat Blue Streaks, who ended the Eagles’ season with a 59-26 victory to take the Division I girls basketball sectional championship Saturday afternoon at Elyria Catholic High School.
The Blue Streaks (17-4) made long-range shooting look easy as they had seven 3-point baskets in the first half, with Paige Wise sinking four.
“I thought Paige did a really nice job of shooting the ball,” Blue Streaks head coach Meghann Hubach said. “I think they (North Olmsted) sagged a little bit. They knew we like to get to the hoop and in their man to man they prevented us from getting to the middle, so we had to make some shots on the perimeter.”
Magnificat took the lead early in the first quarter and never looked back, scoring 16 points to the Eagles’ five in the first quarter and 36 to 17 in the second.
The Blue Streaks went into overdrive during the third quarter with a 12-point run. The Eagles were almost held scoreless in the third quarter, with the only basket coming from Tara Kelley early in the quarter. Despite being down 34 points going into the fourth quarter, the Eagles didn’t let that get the best of them, and they continued to play hard for the remaining eight minutes.
“We struggled offensively, but we’ve done that all year,” North Olmsted head coach Cheryl Bansek said. “They are a better team than us, but I’m pleased with our record. Overall, I think the class and poise we played with against the No. 1 seed without showing any frustration is what I’m most pleased about.
“We felt like we could play with them the first half,” she added. “They hit some big shots. That’s a good basketball team to be playing without their starting point guard and to be able to put up that kind of effort. Our game plan was to make them make big shots, and they made big shots.”
Having a week off from playing, and transitioning from regular season games to tournament games, caused Magnificat to have a sluggish start.
“Sometimes that first tournament game can be hard to get,” Hubach said. “You play 20 games up to that point, but tournament atmosphere is totally different. I think the first couple of minutes we were trying to work out some kinks and the anxiousness.”
Paige Wise led the Blue Streaks with 21 points, followed by Stephanie Haas with 14 points. Maggie Given had six points and Madeline Comer, Maddie Berry, Madeline Nickels and Bridget Pryatel added four points each. Claire Lambert chipped in with two points.
North Olmsted was led by Kelley with 10 points. Megan Branchick added six points and Michelle Palange had four. Erika Kiefer contributed three points while Mackenzie Lynes had two and Haley Reines had one point.
While the Eagles will lose seniors Mackenzie Lynes, Erika Kobak and Megan Branchick, six of the nine players will be returning next year.
“We’re very young,” Bansek stated. “We graduate three seniors, of course they were key players for us, but we have been very careful over the past couple of years to give minutes to the bench.”
North Olmsted’s final record of 10-11 was a vast improvement over last year’s record.
“I’m pleased overall,” Bansek said. “We’re a program that is in the rebuilding phases. We won four games last year, we won 10 this year, we didn’t advance in the tournament last year, and we were able to advance past one round this year. I was hoping for double-digit wins. I thought a great season would be 14 wins, but I’m completely satisfied with 10 and we advanced in the tournament. I’m just so pleased with their character and poise.”
Magnificat played the game without its starting point guard, Megan Barilla, who has an injured ankle. She is currently wearing a boot, and it is not known how long she will be out.
The Blue Streaks will face Avon Lake (12-10) tonight at 7:30 p.m. in the district semifinal game at Elyria Catholic.
“They (Avon Lake) have some nice players,” Hubach said. “Lacy (LeDuc) stepped up there at the end of their game and played a significant amount of the second half with four fouls. She’s a great player, so she’s someone we need to worry about, and the rest of their team does their job and gets stuff done.”