ELYRIA — A trip to the regional tournament can bring a wide range of emotions to players, many of whom are playing on such a big stage for the first time.
For Elyria Catholic senior Megan Scheibelhut it’s just another day at the office.
The 6-foot-2 senior played a key role in the Panthers’ run to the Division II regional final in 2016 and she was in goal last fall when the Elyria Catholic soccer team advanced to the regional final.
Those experiences will give Scheibelhut and several of her teammates an edge when they take the court tonight at
8 o’clock against Newton Falls in a Division III regional semifinal at Cuyahoga Falls High School.
“Having tournament experience helps you prepare for tough crowds and being in a bigger environment,” Scheibelhut said. “I know some of the younger girls are going to be like, ‘Oh, this is so big.’ For me, it’s just another game toward our goal of getting to state.”
Scheibelhut, who will continue her basketball career at Baldwin Wallace University next year, has averaged just over seven points and about seven rebounds each of the past three seasons. However with the emergence of sophomore Ally Winnen in the post for the Panthers, Scheibelhut’s role has expanded to become an offensive and defense threat from anywhere on the court.
“Megan has been an ‘X-factor’ for us for the last four years,” Elyria Catholic coach Eric Rothgery said. “If Megan is playing well, we know we’re in a good position to win. It’s been that way her entire career.
“Megan doesn’t have to score for us to win, but when she does we’re in really great shape. She does all of the other things you need to win — she’s a great rebounder, great passer and she has a high basketball IQ.”
Scheibelhut is apparently a pretty good teammate and friend, too.
“Meg has been like a big sister to me this year. I look to her a lot for advice,” Winnen said. “Meg knows how big going to regionals is, so we always ask her questions. Even in practice she helps everybody a lot because she knows how it is.”
As a senior and captain, Scheibelhut knows being a leader can be just as important as the numbers that show up in a box score.
“I try to be the best leader I can be,” she said. “Luckily I have Faith (Williams) and Regan (Schill) with me who are also great leaders. I just try to set a good example with everything that I do.”
Elyria Catholic started the year 5-3 but went on to win 15 of its last 17 games. Scheibelhut said a turning point for the team was a win over Minster, who at the time was ranked No. 1 in Division IV.
“That Minster win really started us moving forward,” she said. “We came together as a team at the Classic in the Country and came away better for it.”
Scheibelhut’s versatility — she can run the floor, post up, drive the lane or pull up from beyond the 3-point arc — can present a tough matchup for opposing teams and a dream scenario for Rothgery and the rest of the Panthers coaching staff.
“Because we have three 6-footers and because Megan can drag her defender to the 3-point line on one possession and get to the hoop the next time down, sometimes she winds up with these odd ball matchups where a 5-10 girl is trying to guard her and we need to be able to exploit those,” Rothgery said.
Scheibelhut doesn’t care about individual stats or who get the most touches on the offense or the most rebounds on defense, she just wants to be a part of a state tournament team, something Elyria Catholic hasn’t had since 2011.
“It would be so huge to get down to Columbus,” Scheibelhut said. “It would be such a great way to end my senior year and it would put Elyria Catholic basketball back on the map again.”
Contact Todd Shapiro at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.