ELYRIA — Trailing by six late in the third quarter with its star center Ally Winnen playing with four fouls, things looked bleak for Elyria Catholic on Monday against Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary.
Then the Panthers got some big contributions from some unexpected sources.
Junior Julia Allegretto came off the bench to score a basket that keyed an 8-0 run and sophomore Emily Rapacz scored seven of her 13 points in the fourth quarter as the Panthers pulled away late for a 53-46 win.
Elyria Catholic (13-4) retook the lead at 35-33 on a 3-pointer from Regan Schill with 6:30 left in the game, and although the Fighting Irish (10-7) came back to tie it on two occasions, the Panthers never trailed again.
Rapacz hit two big shots down the stretch as Elyria Catholic went on another 6-0 run to take a 43-37 lead with 3:21 to play. She also made three free throws down the stretch to help the Panthers put away the game.
After trailing 33-32 after three quarters, the Panthers outscored the Fighting Irish 21-13 over the final eight minutes.
“I knew we needed points and Ally was getting pressured down low and Faith was getting pressured up top so I felt like I needed to step up,” said Rapacz, referring to senior point guard Faith Williams. “I wanted to do it for my team.”
Winnen picked up three first-half fouls and got her fourth with 2:34 left in the third quarter. Despite being saddled with those four fouls she played some of her best basketball down the stretch before finally fouling out in the closing seconds. She finished with eight points.
“It really hurt us when I got in foul trouble early,” Williams said. “Their big girl inside was getting some easy buckets. I just had to keep my composure and play defense the way I know how to play.”
After losing close non-conference games to Euclid, Cornerstone Christian and Curtis (Wash.), the Panthers showed Monday they are rounding into postseason form with districts just three weeks away.
“Out of conference we’ve lost almost all of them, except for the ones in Arizona, so this really feels good,” Winnen said. “We needed this to turn the corner and get our hopes back up that we’re going to make it to state this year.”
Local basketball fans got their first glimpse of Fighting Irish star freshman Lanae Riley, a 6-foot-2 forward who dominated the paint, scoring a game-high 20 points while pulling down 17 rebounds.
St. Vincent- St. Mary finished the game with a 46-27 rebounding edge.
“In my experience with Elyria Catholic, they never go away,” St. Vincent-St. Mary coach Carley Whitney said. “They’re a very good shooting team and they’re very efficient. I was expecting a dog fight. It’s always a good matchup. They made more shots they we did tonight. These games are great learning lessons as we prepare for the playoffs. You can’t simulate this kinda stuff in practice.”
Williams led the Panthers with 15 points, 13 in the first half. It was the fifth game in a row and 13th times this season she’s scored in double-figures.
“It’s tough to close out real good teams, Elyria Catholic coach Eric Rothgery said. “We were able to do it today. I was proud of the girls. Everybody stepped up, everybody who played in that game today did something special.
“There’s a few games during the season we call our ‘regional games.’This is the kinda competition you get in regionals, this is how you gotta put someone away in regionals. Our goal is to play in regionals again and being able to put away a team like St. Vincent-St. Mary really helps.”
Elyria Catholic 53, St. Vincent-St. Mary 46
ST. VINCENT-ST. MARY (46): Dream Cherry 1-1-3, Jada Haines 1-0-2, Maria Dobson 2-5-10, Tezjah Brooks 1-0-2, Sophia Williams 2-1-5, Lanae Riley 9-2-20, Aubrie Marsh 2-0-4. Totals 18-9-46.
ELYRIA CATHOLIC (53): Faith Williams 4-5-15, Regan Schill 3-0-8, Julia Allegretto 1-0-2, Emily Rapacz 4-4-13, Annika Bredel 1-1-3, Kaylie Griffin 1-2-4, Ally Winnen 4-0-8. Totals 18-12-53.
St. Vincent-St. Mary 11 11 11 13 — 46
Elyria Catholic 12 11 9 21 — 53
Three-point goals: St. Vincent-St. Mary (Dobson), Elyria Catholic (Williams 2, Schill 2, Rapacz). Field goals: St. Vincent-St. Mary 18-54 (33 percent), Elyria Catholic 18-44 (40 percent). Free throws: St. Vincent-St. Mary 9-15 (60 percent), Elyria Catholic 12-18 (67 percent). Rebounds: St. Vincent-St. Mary 46, Elyria Catholic 27. Turnovers: St. Vincent-St. Mary 16, Elyria Catholic 14. Total fouls: St. Vincent-St. Mary 17, Elyria Catholic 12. Fouled out: Winnen
Junior varsity: Elyria Catholic, 48-46