CANTON: The North Canton Hoover girls basketball team will be returning to Columbus for its second state tournament appearance after a 62-45 Division I regional final victory over Solon at the Canton Civic Center on Friday night.
The Comets (23-4) had no answer for 6-foot Vikings senior forward Kaylee Stroemple, who scored 28 points and grabbed 18 rebounds.
“She was awesome,” Vikings second-year coach Abbey Allerding said. “And I don’t know anybody that’s worked harder than Kaylee, and she’s been working for this for a long time.”
Stroemple was the driving force behind the win, but it was senior guard Marquia Turner who got it started with a 10-point first quarter.
The Comets turned the ball over three times before scoring a point, and the Vikings opened up a 17-8 lead by the end of the first quarter.
“They jumped on us in the first,” Solon coach Trish Kruse said. “Turner really hurt us coming out. We didn’t rebound very well, we didn’t get many stops and we just couldn’t score on the offensive end of the floor. They just wanted it a little more than us.”
After pacing the Vikings’ fast start, Turner deferred to Stroemple.
“That really got our momentum going,” Stroemple said of Turner. “She really took initiative. She was taking it to the hoop and they were just leaving that lane open for her. I think that really helped open up everything else later in the game.”
Before the game, Kruse said the key to a Comets victory was a strong inside presence and rebounding. The Vikings (24-2) have three players standing at 6 feet – Stroemple, Julie Worley and Allie Farina. The Comets have just one, senior Alexis Gray.
“They have three 6-foot girls and we have one,” Kruse said. “I mean, right there is a huge problem for us. We didn’t rebound well, they were hungry for the boards. They got offensive rebounds, they got put-backs, they just wanted it a little more than us.”
Four of Stroemple’s 18 rebounds were on the offensive end, and all went for second-chance points. The Vikings held a 20-8 rebounding advantage in the first half and finished with a 32-22 lead.
Comets standout senior guard and Maryland commit Kristen Confroy led her team with 19 points, but missed a lot of shots and had trouble finding an offensive rhythm. The rest of the Comets struggled mightily on their jump shots and finishing at the hoop.
“They did a very good job of sticking really tight to her and making her take tough, contested shots,” Kruse said. “And our other kids just didn’t hit perimeter shots. It was a tough night.”
Turner finished with 14 points, four rebounds, three assists, two steals and a block for Hoover. Worley chipped in 13 points, five rebounds, a steal and a block. Kelsey Lensman scored five points with four rebounds, four steals, two assists and a block.
The Vikings move on to the state tournament for the first time since their 2002 state championship. Hoover will play Dublin Coffman in a state semifinal at the Schottenstein Center in Columbus on Friday at 8 p.m.
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