Rockets’ run ended by Blue Devils
BERLIN CENTER — Seventh-seeded Maplewood was cruising through the tournament up until Wednesday evening, when the Rockets encountered a formidable second-seeded Western Reserve team that features a Division I commit playing the post along with several skillful guards.
Following playoff wins at home over Lisbon and Southern Local, the Rockets saw their season end against the Blue Devils by a final score of 57-33 at Western Reserve High School.
“They’re as good as we thought they were,” Maplewood coach Mark Yoder said about the Blue Devils. “(Danielle Vuletich) is very effective, she works hard to get position, and she’s got some guards that know how to pass her the ball.”
Yoder said the effort was there defensively at times but the Blue Devils took advantage of their size.
“Makes it tough when you’re not used to playing against that kind of player the entire season, it makes it tough when you go against a that in a tournament, somebody of that caliber. And she’s got a lot of really nice role players around her, every girl they bring off the bench can shoot it.
Western Reserve coach Steve Miller said defense was the key for the Blue Devils, especially against Maplewood star Marissa Ventura.
“Well, I mean you can’t spell Devils without defense, and that’s where we hang our hat, and that’s where it always starts,” he said. “Kennedy (Miller) has done a great job defensively on some of the better players in the area.
“Ventura is a great player. I thought (Miller) did a great job of frustrating her early, but you never stop a great player or a couple players unless you play team defense, because you always got to switch, you always got to hedge, you always got to help.”
Western Reserve leaped out of the gate running, with senior Vuletich scoring nine first-quarter points to help her team lead 17-5. The Rockets were limited to a pair of buckets by Ventura.
Vuletich kept taking passes inside from her teammates and scoring under the basket with seeming ease, to help build a 32-7 lead at the intermission. She scored 17 points herself in the half.
“We knew they were going to come out in a matchup 1-2-2, because that was mostly their defense that they’ve played all year,” she said about the Rockets. “So, in practice we prepared for that, and we wanted to slow (Ventura) down because we knew she was the person that just ran the whole team and everything.
“And Kennedy, she did a really good job on her and (freshman) Lindsay Jones when she was in, when we put different people on her, they did really good defending her. I think just knowing their players when we watched film helped us a lot in our defensive effort.”
Ventura hit a pair of shots to open the second half, forcing the Blue Devils into a timeout. She continued to make shots, including a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to end the third period, but Western Reserve still led 44-23 going into the final eight minutes.
When the dust settled, Vuletich finished with a game-high 29 points, an effort that she credits to her teammates.
“I try to get open as much as I can, find the holes, post people up, but honestly I wouldn’t have got those 29 points if it wasn’t for my team passing the ball in to me and looking to me in the post,” she said. “I give all my credit to my team, and everything for my success tonight.”
Maplewood ends its season 17-8, being paced by Ventura’s 18 points, and freshman Cayleigh Richards’ nine points. Ventura recorded at least 17 points in 14 out of her team’s 25 games this season as an effective shooter around the arc.
The Rockets graduate seniors Brooke Smith and Alexis Parthemer and Yoder said he appreciates what they’ve done for the program over four years.
“It’s tough to go through basketball practices all the time, all the offseason that we do,” he said. “Even though this last offseason wasn’t what we were used to, I still had some open gyms and they still came in and worked. I always appreciate my seniors that stick it out for four years.”