COLUMBUS: The Orrville student section started to chant, ‘We still love you!’ in the final seconds of the Red Riders’ girls basketball season.
Parents and other adults wearing red and black joined in showing their appreciation to an Orrville team that reached the Division III state semifinals.
Unfortunately for the Red Riders and their fans, Anna proved to be the better team Thursday and defeated Orrville 80-59 before a crowd of 5,497 at Value City Arena.
The Rockets (25-4) were able to break the Red Riders’ full-court press in the first quarter with solid ball-handling and passing that led to several layups.
Senior Natalie Billing, sophomore Cayla Bensman, senior Erica Huber and freshman Avery Bensman combined to give Anna a formidable quartet that Orrville (26-3) could not stop.
Billing, a 5-foot-11 forward, led Anna with 29 points and 10 rebounds. Cayla Bensman added 26 points, eight rebounds and five assists, and Avery Bensman scored nine points.
Huber, a 5-5 point guard, routinely used her speed to elude Orrville defenders and total eight points, 10 assists, seven rebounds and no turnovers.
“They definitely played a lot better than what we had seen on tape,” Orrville coach Mark Alberts Sr. said. “We just had not seen them do transition like that.
“I did not think that they would be able to do that to us and they obviously did. Our hats are off to them. They handled what we tried to do to them from a pressure standpoint better than I thought they would.”
Orrville 5-10 senior guard Hannah Plybon led the Red Riders with 28 points and 11 rebounds.
“Getting here is the biggest memory,” Plybon said. “I wish it would go farther, obviously. Just the memories with the team, the big wins, being 26-3, the atmosphere, the fans and community is the biggest memory I will take from this season.”
Anna took control from the start and built a 26-18 lead after one quarter.
“In the first half, we just did not get back [on defense], even when we weren’t pressing,” Alberts said. “We had taken the press off. We scored. All year long we had been successful in scoring and getting back in transition. They got around us, by us and through us to get to the bucket.”
Anna led 49-33 at halftime.
“After that first half, I thought it might be a 100-point game,” Anna coach Jack Billing said. “We were getting up and down the court.”
The Rockets led 66-48 after three quarters and maintained a double-digit lead in the fourth quarter.
“Huber did a great job in penetrating, drawing us to her and then giving it to an open girl,” Alberts said. “We did not defend the basket as well as we needed to against them. We did not make them take enough tough shots.”
Alberts said he knew Huber, Billing and Bensman could present problems for Orrville — they certainly did.
Anna made 64.7 percent (33-of-51) of its shots from the field and held a 35-31 edge in rebounds. Orrville made 36.5 percent (23-of-63) of its field-goal attempts.
Plybon, a University of Akron basketball recruit, played her final game for Orrville. Seniors Maggie Davault (13 points), Abby Reusser (11 points), Brianne Adcock (five assists) and Sara Landis also played their final game.
“Our team is really important to me,” Davault said. “They are like a second family to all of us. As a senior, it is a blessing to get to state. That is everybody’s dream. I couldn’t be prouder of my teammates. We wanted to win the whole thing, but this was a season that anybody could hope for.”
Michael Beaven can be reached at 330-996-3829 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the high school blog at http://www.ohio.com/preps. Follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/MBeavenABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.