BARBERTON — The game plan Friday night for the St. Vincent-St. Mary girls basketball team was to get the ball into the post.
St. V-M utilized its height advantage and quickness to beat previously undefeated Poland Seminary 56-46 in a Division II regional championship game on Greynolds Floor.
The victory before a crowd of 1,236 propelled the Irish to a state semifinal game against Dayton Carroll at 6 p.m. Thursday in Columbus.
“We got great looks at the basket, and we were fortunate to make them all in the first half,” St. V-M coach Carley Whitney said. “In the third quarter, not so much. We really preached the last two days in practice to hammer the ball inside the whole time, and we got back to that in the fourth quarter and that is what made us successful.”
Freshman Lanae Riley led St. V-M (18-9) over Poland (26-1) with 17 points and 14 rebounds. Senior Maria Dobson contributed 13 points, four rebounds and three steals.
“I am just really excited for my freshman year to be going to the state tournament,” said Riley, a 6-foot-2 forward. “We passed the ball very well and got it inside to our post players. We didn’t crumble when pressure came, we stayed together as a team.”
Sophia Williams, a 6-foot senior, had eight points and seven rebounds for St. V-M. Sophomore Dream Cherry and freshman Annie Watson both scored five points, and senior Aubrie Marsh and sophomore Tezjah Brooks each scored four points.
“We are a young team even though we do have eight seniors, but we really stick together and we work together,” said Dobson, a 5-8 guard. “We always emphasize that teamwork is everything, and that is what is going to win us games.”
Jackie Grisdale, a 5-9 sophomore, paced Poland with 18 points and two blocks. Senior Sarah Bury had 11 points and four steals, and senior Kat Partika scored seven points.
Riley scored nine points in the first quarter to help St. V-M build a 19-12 lead. The Irish led 32-24 at halftime and 38-36 through three quarters.
Dobson picked up her fourth foul nine seconds into the fourth quarter. Poland then rallied to lead 41-38, but St. V-M took over in the final six minutes with an 18-5 run.
Dobson returned to the court in the middle of the quarter, and made a layup and 7-of-8 free throws during the spurt.
“I knew that the next time I got back in that I had to play smart,” Dobson said.
“That was a very physical game tonight,” Whitney said. “... Poland Seminary is a very good team. They are very disciplined and they are pesky.”
Poland coach Nick Blanch praised his players, including Grisdale (four 3-pointers).
“I have great kids,” Blanch said. “We gave it everything we had and left it all on the court. I have no regrets about tonight. Poland basketball is on the map and I am very proud of what we did tonight.”
Michael Beaven can be reached at 330-996-3829 or firstname.lastname@example.org.