Back-to-back district titles for Blue Jays

MINERAL RIDGE — The Jackson-Milton girls basketball team captured its second consecutive Division IV district championship with a 48-22 win Saturday over McDonald at Mineral Ridge High School.

“Our first goal was league title, the second was sectionals and now this, getting past districts for the second time, back-to-back is unbelievable,” Jackson-Milton senior Ashley Totani said. “We always want to do better than last year and we are definitely back at it.”

Points were hard to come by on Saturday and that’s what teams can look forward to when they go up against the Blue Jays.

“Defense is what we focus on,” Totani said. “We believe that wins championships, so we locked down on defense and then we just believed the offense would come along.”

Junior Emily Williams scored nine first-half points to pace the Blue Jays for a 23-13 halftime advantage. Williams finished the night with 14 points.

“They always play us in a zone,” Totani said. “Last time we played them we got off to a bad start. We all share the ball and try to drive to find open shots but they played really good defense which made it a struggle.”

The second half belonged to Jackson-Milton. McDonald senior Samantha Stitt recorded her team’s only points of the quarter with a baseline floater with 3:40 left in the quarter. The Blue Devils were outscored 10-2 going into the final eight minutes of play.

“We didn’t come out here and execute today and that was our biggest problem,” McDonald coach Amy Dolsak said. “You have to hand it to Jackson-Milton because they came out and pressured and they really make you work for it, making things difficult.”

Things didn’t fare better in the fourth with the Blue Devils being held to one point until junior Olivia Perry ended the drought with the final six points well after the Jackson-Milton starters were pulled.

“Our kids came in and played hard with great defense and it was awesome,” Blue Jay coach Pat Keney said. “We’re so excited about going to regionals again, but these are a bunch of great kids to coach. They listen, come to practice and work hard, it’s a dream to have a team like this.”

Perry finished the night with a team-high 8 points for McDonald. This marks the second district runner-up finish in two years.

“A lot of people didn’t think we would be able to get back here,” Dolsak said. “But our girls worked hard and they were able to overcome some injuries this season with one of our guards being out, and still making it here regardless. I’m still proud of them, this is still a really good accomplishment for them, so they should be proud.”

J-M will try to eclipse last year’s run to a regional semifinal appearance with a win over Dalton on Thursday at Massillon Perry High School. Tip-off is scheduled for 8 p.m.

“There’s no settling,” Totani said. “The big goal is to win everything. Last year we got to the regional semifinals, thankfully we got back there again this year, but we’re pushing as far as we can.

“State’s the goal.”