Flashes to the final
Champion holds off Ursuline in district semifinal
CHAMPION — The Champion girls basketball team rallied from a seven-point deficit in the second quarter to tie its Division III district semifinal with visiting Ursuline by halftime on Wednesday night.
The fourth-seeded Flashes carried the momentum into the third quarter and catapulted to a 43-31 lead after an opening 12-2 surge en route to a 58-54 victory over the fifth-seeded Fighting Irish.
“We’ve been a good third-quarter team all season long,” said Champion coach Michael Cole, whose team improved to 10-5. “We finally started making some shots and that made it easier. From there, we made enough key plays when it got tight and made just enough free throws to hang on.”
The victory set up a rematch with top-seeded Garfield in a district final at 1 p.m. Saturday in Garrettsville. The Flashes won the district title last season, beating the G-Men 59-44 before losing to South Range in a regional semifinal.
The teams squared off again this season, with Garfield winning 51-49.
“We had the ball out of bounds under their basket in the final seconds and didn’t convert,” Cole said. “We scrimmage them every year and next year they’ll be in our league. They have a very good program. I just wish we had won the earlier meeting and maybe we’d be playing this district final on our home floor.”
In the semifinal, Champion’s inside game struggled in the first half against Ursuline.
The Irish appeared to have their way inside early, using strength and finesse in and around the paint. The combination of Anisah Moorman and Alayna Smith bodied up well against Champion’s Brooke Whitt and Emma Gumont.
Moorman and Smith tallied 16 points apiece. Moorman had 10 points at intermission and was slowed by the Flashes in the second half. Smith had eight points in each half.
Ursuline led 15-12 after one quarter and extended the lead to 20-13 early in the second period before Champion closed the half with a 16-9 run to force a 29-all tie.
Whitt netted six of her nine points during that span with Gumont logging seven of her game-high 19 points.
Then Champion scored 12 of the first 14 points after intermission. Junior Lorinda Dodrill made a pair of her four 3-pointers in that third quarter for the Flashes, who outscored Ursuline 21-9 from 3-point range and also had a 13-3 cushion from the foul line.
“When we start producing inside, scoring and getting rebounds, that opened things up for our outside shooters and they stepped up big,” Gumont said. “We had that great run in the third quarter to open things up and really seize the momentum.”
Moorman’s old-fashioned three-point play and a 3-pointer from Lily Scott helped the Irish pull within 46-37 entering the fourth quarter. When Cara McNally nailed a 3-pointer seconds into the fourth quarter, the Irish began making up ground. Layups by Smith and Rachel Fabry and a putback from McNally got Ursuline within 47-46 midway through the period.
“We could feel it and we knew we had a chance,” Kernan said. “These kids fought to the end. We came back and had a nice chance toward the end, but never got the one critical bucket to tie it up or give us the lead back. You could tell (Champion) felt our presence until the very end. Our girls did a great job of sticking with it.
“But (Champion) executed a little better than us on offense and even defensively. We hurt them with some of our defensive pressure early, but then they started beating it and scoring, so we had a back that off a bit so we didn’t give up as many layups and open shots. Defensively, they got their hands on a lot of balls. They did good job on deflections and steals. We had a couple too many turnovers.”
A Dodrill 3-pointer and a layup from freshman Bella Meyer gave Champion a little breathing room, but the Flashes couldn’t pull away due to poor free-throw shooting. The Flashes went 3-for-9 in the period until the final 30 seconds when Ava Howell went 3-for-4. They finished 13-for-27 overall and 6-for-13 in the quarter.
Ursuline was 3-for-5 at the stripe.
“We practice our free throws tons and, believe it or not, this is one of our better teams in recent years in terms of making free throws,” Cole said. “We’re at about 70 percent. But we left the door open a bit tonight because we weren’t making them.”
Dodrill finished with 14 points and Meyer added 10.
Scott finished with eight points and McNally had seven for Ursuline (11-10).