Lady Bearcats stymie Saint Paul in district finale
From the opening tip, the Orrick Lady Bearcats basketball team showed why it was the top seed in Class 2, District 15 at Sweet Springs.
Mitch Comstock's Lady Bearcats used a suffocating pressure defense as a catalyst in building an 18-6 first-quarter lead, rarely let off the gas and rolled to a 54-33 championship victory over No. 2-seeded Saint Paul Saturday.
"The thing that makes me kind of sad is we played them so close the first two times and I thought we would have a good chance," SPLHS head coach John Beerman said. "We didn't show up to play as well as they did. They got on a roll and we couldn't stop them."
How the game panned out was a far cry from each of the two previous meetings be-tween the two teams during the season. Each was a four-point decision that went down to the wire, Orrick winning both.
The two teams traded points in the early going, Taylor Vogelsmeier's conventional three-point play tying the game at 4-4 with 4:58 left in the first quarter. That was the last tie in the game.
Led by Amanda Roden-berg's three baskets and seven points, the Lady Bearcats rattled off 14 of the next 16 points to lead 18-6 by the end of the first stanza.
"We knew we had to play four full quarters," Comstock said. "We knew they were going to be ready to go. We knew they were going to battle.
"The girls rose to the occasion. (It's) what they've been working for all year."
Most of Saint Paul's problems were due to the inability to solve Orrick's pressure defense.
"We didn't handle (the pressure) well. The last two times we played them, we handled it," Beerman said. "We didn't adjust to the calls (by the officials). They were calling the game really tight off the bat and we didn't make adjustments. You've got to do that individually when you're out on the floor."
Sara Riesterer hit both halves of a one-and-one and the Lady Saints hung within 11 points with 3:42 left in the first half.
But Orrick, with their top scorer Rodenberg on the bench, saddled with three fouls, scored the final six points of the half, ending with a 15-foot jumper from the right wing by Shelby Harth.
"We were three of 19 from the field in the first half," Beerman said. "That's not like us. We shoot 40 to 42 percent from the field on any given night."
Audrey Mehl scored the first points of the second half for the Lady Saints. Amy Isenhour answered for Orrick. But Vogelsmeier hit a shot and the Lady Saints were within 12.
Just as they did in the first quarter, the Lady Bearcats used their pressure defense to cause problems and spurted out by seven more points, five by Harth.
"We kind of got away from it in the second half because Saint Paul was doing a good job with it," Comstock said. "We did enough things to slow them down early, got them out of what they wanted to do enough to get the shots that we wanted them to take and get the defensive rebounds."
Louisa Mehl gave the Lady Saints one last shot in the arm by hitting back-to-back shots, first from the right corner and second from the right wing.
But the Lady Bearcats scored the final four points of the quarter, Leslie LaFavor hitting a 15-foot jump shot from the left wing at the buzzer and a 41-23 lead.
The Lady Bearcats put away the game with a 7-1 run to open the fourth quarter. That 11-1 run spanning back to the third quarter was put together without Rodenberg, who had picked up her fourth foul with 2:14 left in the third.
Saint Paul got only as close as 19 points the rest of the game.
Harth, who led all scorers with 22 points, including six of seven from the free-throw line, stepping up to lead the Lady Bearcats is not surprising to Comstock.
"That's the story of our year," Comstock said. "When Amanda's on, she's great. Everybody tries to stop her.
"But we've had a different girl every night. Tonight it was Shelby. Whatever night, whomever's turn it is, they do it."
The Lady Bearcats, who won a district title for the first time since 2003, also had 14 points from Rodenberg and 10 from Isenhour.
Why did the Lady Saints have trouble?
"They (the Lady Bearcats' defense) did a good job. We couldn't get any good looks," Beerman said. "We didn't move the ball as quickly as I wanted us to. Part of that was their defense. They were in our face, and we're not extremely tall."
Vogelsmeier closed out her career with eight points to top SPLHS.
Defense is the key to Orrick's success.
"The girls have really bought in. I'm not any kind of genius or anything like that, but they decided they wanted to play hard and that's what's done it, just their effort," Comstock said.
Having experienced players is a plus.
"That's nice to say when you're junior-laden," Com-stock said. "It's nice to get these girls to where they want to be now and who knows where next year could lead."
The Lady Saints lose Vogelsmeier, Riesterer and Louisa Mehl as starters and Elyse Luebbert, Elizabeth Hemme and Laura Snyder off the bench.
"Two years ago, we were excited to win 10 games," Beerman said. "The last two years, they've done a pretty good job. So hopefully they've laid the foundation for next year.
"We'll have a good nucleus back. Two freshmen (Marissa Brackman and Devon Heins) will be back and Audrey Mehl."
The Lady Bearcats, winners of 17 in a row and 26-2 on the season, have a tall task ahead of them tonight at 6 as they travel to North Central Community College in Trenton to tangle with once-beaten Penney of Hamilton in the sectional round of the state playoffs. The winner will advance to the quarterfinal round and take on the winner of the Harrisburg (27-0) vs. Northeast (Cairo) (16-6) sectional Saturday at 1 p.m. at the Chillicothe Middle School.
"We wanted the conference and district championships. I couldn't have foreseen 26-2. I don't think there's any way I could have seen that," Comstock said.
"The other wins throughout the regular season are great, but those are the two things that really matter."