ELYRIA — With four freshmen and just two seniors on the roster, some folks might think Magnificat too young and inexperienced to be a Division I district champion.
Those folks would be wrong.
With three juniors and two of the ninth-graders in the starting lineup, the Blue Streaks pulled away from Elyria on Saturday to win their second straight district crown, 51-39.
“Honestly, I’m proud of the way we played,” Elyria senior Mary Jones said. “We got this far and I’m really proud of my team. They really worked their butts off.
“We kind of had a run, but they came back and they’re a good team. This morning one of our teammates sent us a text about how we really came together, how we trusted each other and became a family.”
It seemed as though every time Elyria got within striking distance, Magnificat found a way to widen its lead.
The Pioneers led 13-11 after a quarter, but went just 1-of-10 from the field in the second quarter and trailed 24-17. They cut the deficit to 26-24 with a 7-2 run to open the third, but Mags answered with a 12-2 outburst and took control
38-28 going into the final eight minutes.
Still, Elyria fought back with seven unanswered points to open the fourth quarter. But with its lead sliced to 38-35 with 4:50 left, Mags outscored the Pioneers 13-4, creating the final score.
Jones, who’s undecided about where she’ll play college basketball, ended her stellar high school career with 12 points, including two 3-point baskets in the first half. Junior post Alexis Middlebrooks scored a team-high 13.
“We have a lot of competitors out there,” Elyria coach Mike Walsh said. “They’re used to winning and they’re not going to go down without a fight. I told them that sometimes I like to see them go down by eight or 10, because then I see the team I want to see on the floor all the time. They really get after it.”
The four freshmen combined for more than half — 28 — of Magnificat’s points. The Blue Streaks earned another shot at Wadsworth in a regional semifinal Tuesday at 7 p.m. in North Royalton. The Grizzlies, who defeated Magnificat in a regional semi last season, stomped Medina Highland 91-47 on Saturday at Medina.
“Fortunately, I think the strength of our schedule helps prepare us for things like that,” Streaks coach Meghann Hubach said of Elyria’s rallies. “When you play good teams, good teams make runs. You have to be able to make runs of your own and I thought the girls did a pretty good job of doing that today.
“We got stops when we needed them and once we settled down on offense and were a little more patient, I thought we played more like ourselves than we did in the first half.”
Even playing with four personal fouls, Sarah Scelza, one of the Streaks’ juniors, was anything but timid in the fourth quarter. She scored 11 of her game-high 20 points, including a 3-pointer and four of six foul shots.
“Last year, we won districts and I wanted to go back-to-back,” Scelz said of her motivation. “We all had a talk and came together and said, ‘Let’s win this. Let’s finish strong.’ So we all came together and we won.”
Freshman Phoebe Sterba, with 14 points, was the only other Blue Streak to score in double figures.
Contact Bob Daniels at 329-7135 or email@example.com.
Magnificat 51, Elyria 39
MAGNIFICAT (51): Madison Dennis 0-0-0, Claire Martin 0-2-2, Phoebe Sterba 6-0-14, Madeline Comer 0-0-0, Madeline Nickels 0-1-1, Bridget Pryatel 0-0-0, Sarah Scelza 6-6-20, Elise Keshock 2-0-4, Lily Schwind 4-0-8, Anne Ubbing 0-2-2, Lissy Roggenburk 0-0-0. Totals 18-11-51.
ELYRIA (39): Sybil Roseboro 3-1-8, Mikayla Christian 0-0-0, Shayla Middlebrooks 1-0-2, Mary Jones 3-4-12, Samantha Harjar 0-0-0, Jocelyn Spraggins 0-0-0, Cheyenne Rodriguez 0-0-0, Alexis Roseboro 1-0-2, Alexis Middlebrooks 6-0-13, Sierra White 1-0-2, Mariah Johnson 0-0-0, Hannah Stewart 0-0-0. Totals 15-5-39.
Magnificat 11 13 14 13 — 51
Elyria 13 4 11 11 — 39
Three-point goals: Magnificat 4-11 (Scelza 2, Sterba 2); Elyria 4-16 (Jones 2, A. Middlebrooks, S. Roseboro). Field goals: Magnificat 18-48 (38 percent); Elyria 15-52 (29 percent). Free throws: Magnificat 11-21 (52 percent); Elyria 5-11 (45 percent). Rebounds: Magnificat 31, Elyria 29. Turnovers: Magnificat 19, Elyria 18.