MASSILLON - Windham began Thursday night's game on a roll that brought them to victory over Our Lady of the Elms despite a late comeback attempt.
The Bombers led by seven throughout most of the third quarter, but the Panthers did not allow the lead to grow in the opening seconds of the fourth in a 56-43 Division IV regional semifinal at Massillon Perry High School. Windham plays Berlin Hiland, which beat Lowellville in the other semifinal, Saturday for the regional title.
The Panthers (14-9) committed 23 turnovers in the first three quarters and needed a boost. They went on a 6-0 scoring to open the quarter, cutting the deficit to one (37-36).
Tribune Chronicle / Michael Taylor
Windham’s Dari Heller shoots over Our Lady of the Elms’ Tessa Haneline Thursday in a Division IV regional semifinal victory for the Bombers in Massillon.
"Windham did a really good job of capitalizing on those turnovers," Elms' coach Heather Giel said. "There's nothing you can do about it, though."
Leading by one, the Bombers needed something to break the cold spell they were under, and they got it.
Taylor Vlasaty hit her only shot of the game to break the run, a 3-point field goal to put the team up by four.
"Fatigue probably played a little factor there, and Taylor stepped up and made a big shot," Bombers coach Gregg Isler said.
Isler also said he put the ball in Caitlyn Isler's hands, Gregg Isler's daughter, which was another huge key in the fourth quarter.
"We did a better job of taking care of the basketball in the second half," he said. "Obviously having the ball in Caitlyn's hands helps a lot."
The Bombers committed 14 turnovers in the first half. They four miscues in the second half (one in the fourth quarter).
Jessica Isler, Gregg Isler's younger daughter, said the team just kept shooting to end the run.
"When we lose our composure, we just keep shooting it," she said. "We just got to keep doing what we're doing. They were going to fall eventually."
After taking care of the ball and leading 42-39, the Bombers (17-7) went on a 14-2 run to end the game.
"I think there were definitely times where we tried to do too much instead of letting the game come to us and play like we know how to play," Giel said.
Jessica Isler led all scorers with 18 points (four 3-point field goals). Another freshman, Dari Heller, finished behind Jessica Isler with 16 points and collected a game-high 12 rebounds.
"I'd love to you that I could explain that, but both of them are very, very poised," Gregg Isler said.
Though Jessica Isler and Heller are freshmen, they said they don't feel like they are.
"Only in school. On the court, no," Jessica Isler said while Heller said she feels like a senior.
Jessica Frew led the Panthers with 16 points in her final game as a high school student. Everybody else on the team scored nine points or fewer.
Though the Panthers' season ended in a loss, Giel said it does not diminish the year they had, winning the district title for the first time in school history.
"The last two weeks have just been so positive in the community, and I think that will just carry over into next season," Giel said. "Our kids are already eager. They want to keep practicing."
Meanwhile, the Bombers will face Hiland in the District IV finals match on Saturday. Gregg and Caitlyn Isler do not know a lot about the Hawks but are ready to play.
"Obviously they have a great tradition," Gregg Isler said. "They're a really good basketball team. We'll have to do a lot of things right."