ELYRIA — With a big second half and nearly flawless foul shooting, Elyria battled its way into a Division I district final Wednesday night.
After a first half in which they led by only a point, the Pioneers dominated the final 16 minutes in a 45-32 victory over Amherst. They made 15 of 18 foul shots for the game, including eight straight in the fourth quarter.
Junior Jocelyn Spraggins made eight straight free throws in the second half, six in the final eight minutes.
The victory sends Elyria (16-8) into a district final against Magnificat at 2:30 p.m. Saturday in Elyria Catholic’s Coliseum. Mags advanced with a victory over Avon in Wednesday night’s second game. It will be the Pioneers’ first district final appearance since 2009.
Wednesday’s game marked the end of a remarkable turnaround season for the Comets, who won only six games last year. They bowed out this year with an 18-6 record.
Spraggins, whose defense and inside offensive moves propelled the Pioneers, finished with a game-high 16 points. Reaching a district final was exciting for Elyria.
“This means a lot to us,” Spraggins said. “We’ve been working hard in practice, doing our thing. Our coach said give him one more win and we’ll go to the finals. The team really wanted to go, and that’s what got us pumped up. I really wanted to get the win for the team. This team is like my family and I owe it to them.”
Elyria coach Mike Walsh was glad to get a big win so close to home.
“Obviously, we play in a conference where we don’t play (locally) very much,” he said. “Nobody gets to see us, but everybody always says, ‘You guys must be good because you play a good schedule.’ But the last couple years, we’ve come over here and not played well.
“But it was fun to go against Johnny (Rositano, Amherst coach),” said Walsh, who has faced Rositano as Elyria’s boys and girls coach for years. “It was exciting for me to have another chance to go against him. We’re about even. He’s won a couple in a row and I’ve won a couple in a row. It’s just been a battle since we were 6 years old playing minor league baseball.”
Amherst stayed close in the first half, with 6-foot-2 sophomore Brooke Wallace scoring seven points, five in the second quarter. Elyria led 17-16 after two periods, with the Pioneers’ Mary Jones scoring five points and Sybil Roseboro and Spraggins adding four apiece.
Morgan Dziak, Amherst’s 5-7 sharpshooter, kept the Comets in contention with three 3-pointers in the fourth quarter. Dziak finished with four of Amherst’s five threes. She scored a team-high 12 points.
“In the Lorain High game, we got doubled up on the boards but made shots that offset that,” Rositano said of the sectional final. “Today, we got doubled up on the boards and didn’t make shots. It wasn’t a lack of effort. Elyria got after us a little bit and took us out of our offense.
“We haven’t seen overall quickness like we saw tonight. I thought their quickness bothered us and we never got into the flow offensively. Give Elyria credit. They have athleticism and they disrupted us a little offensively.”
Elyria 45, Amherst 32
AMHERST (32): Sheridan Champe 0-0-0, Hannah Brosky 0-0-0, Morgan Dziak 4-0-12, Brianna Shagovac 4-1-9, Taylor Gibson 0-0-0, Mallory Sliman 0-0-0, Sydney Failing 1-0-3, Megan Salisbury 0-0-0, Gabrielle Basinski 0-0-0, Brianna Crapo 0-0-0, Brooke Wallace 3-2-8, Sara Elliot 0-0-0. Totals 12-3-32.
ELYRIA (45): Sybil Roseboro 3-2-8, Shayla Middlebrooks 0-0-0, Mary Jones 2-2-6, Jocelyn Spraggins 4-8-16, Alexis Roseboro 1-3-5, Alex Middlebrooks 4-0-8, Sierra White 0-0-0, Mariah Johnson 1-0-2. Totals 15-15-45.
Amherst 7 9 5 11 — 32
Elyria 9 8 10 18 — 45
Three-point goals: Amherst 5-20 (Dziak 4, Failing); Elyria 0-9. Field goals: Amherst 12-54 (22 percent); Elyria 15-55 (27 percent). Free throws: Amherst 3-8 (38 percent); Elyria 15-18 (83 percent). Rebounds: Amherst 28, Elyria 45. Turnovers: Amherst 11, Elyria 15.
Contact Bob Daniels at 329-7135 or email@example.com.