By Amy Rutledge
The Rocky River Pirates seized a Division II District Championship and will advance to regionals after a victory over the Keystone Wildcats 29-20.
“I’m just really proud of the girls,” said Pirates head coach Mike Sislowski. “This has been a tough tournament run. We asked them to play four games, and those (games) gave the opportunity to the other teams to game plan us and really know us. We knew Bay was going to be prepared for us, and I thought that was the springboard into tonight.
“We knew how good Keystone is,” he added. “A record of 22-1, there’s no way to make that a farce. They (Rocky River) respected their opponent, but they were confident.”
Katie McNally was able to sink two 3-pointers in the first quarter for the Pirates. Rocky River (18-6) excelled on free throws, shooting 83 percent to Keystone’s 20 percent.
“When Katie McNally hit a couple threes early in the game, we felt like this was our game,” Sislowski said. “We know how good she is as a shooter, and that gives our whole team juice, and we fed off of that.”
Keystone drained four 3-point shots to tally its 12 first-half points.
Constant turnovers hit the Wildcats hard in the second quarter, as the Pirates were able to add six points, and limit Keystone to one 3-point basket. Rocky River finished the half with an 18-12 lead over Keystone.
“We told them the team with the least amount of turnovers will win this game,” Sislowski said. “They held us to 29 points. They played a great game. It came down to our girls holding a great offensive team to 20 points and that’s what won us a district championship.”
During all four quarters of play, the Pirates allowed Keystone to tie the game once, early in the first quarter, but never allowed them to capture the lead. The Pirates held the Wildcats to eight points in the second half, while scoring 11 points of their own.
“They’ve worked at this all year,” Sislowski said. “We’ve talked about playing a full season. We’ve talked about playing all four quarters. We want to play the best at the end of the game, and at the end of the season.
“Hopefully the end of the season is no time soon.”
Hannah McCue led the Pirates with 13 points followed by McNally with eight points. Also contributing was Ciara Kessler and Allyson Helleis with three points each, and Katie Kocher with two points.
Rocky River will be taking a wealth of experience with them into regional play as the upperclassmen were all part of the team that made it to the regional finals two years ago.
“The girls have been here,” Sislowski said. “Most of our rotation is part of the team that went to Barberton two years ago. Maggie Krajcer and Katie Kocher were on the sidelines during that year. They stepped right into it and knew what to expect. They were just as strong as the others so I thought they handled it well.
“There’s no pressure I felt more than wanting to deliver these girls to Barberton again,” he added. “They’re just hard workers and so talented. It’s a group that comes once in a lifetime. This group is going to go as far as they want. I don’t know that you’ll find a more talented team. It’s my job to facilitate; it’s their job to win.”