When some athletes talk about their team being like a family it’s just a talking point or a way of expressing how well the team plays together. For Elyria Catholic senior Regan Schill, it’s reality.
The Panthers basketball program has been a part of her life since fourth grade and her family has been directly involved with the program since she was in fifth grade.
Now, with Elyria Catholic heading into the Division III North Ridgeville district tournament as the top seed with a 17-4 record, Schill has the chance to do two things no Panthers player has done before — win three district championships and bring home a state title.
“It’s been awesome to be a part of Elyria Catholic basketball,” said Schill, the only player who has been with the team the last four years. “I’ve been surrounded by great basketball players and I’ve got to experience great things. This is my family. When I’m here it’s my second home, it’s the place I’m most comfortable.”
While Schill is comfortable in an Elyria Catholic uniform, she specializes in making opponents uncomfortable. The Panthers’ leader in steals at 2.5 a game, she usually draws the assignment of guarding the opposing team’s top player.
“Regan’s a hard worker and a great defender, probably as good of a defender as we’ve ever had,” Elyria Catholic coach Eric Rothgery said. “She’s a team player and her focus is always on helping the team succeed. That allows to her to fit into many different roles. She can go out and guard anybody on the court. She understands the game.”
As a freshman, Schill shared the court with her sister Riley, the 2016 Lorain County Miss Basketball winner who now plays for Baldwin Wallace University. Her father, Joe, has been an assistant coach on Rothgery’s staff since 2012.
“This is what my family does. It’s always been basketball,” Schill said. “It’s how we hang out, we go to my sisters games, or my games, or my brothers games or come out when Dad is coaching. Basketball is in our blood, it’s how we connect to each other.”
Schill didn’t start playing basketball until sixth grade. Gymnastics was her first sport of choice, but even before that Elyria Catholic basketball was a part of her life. She remembers cheering on the 2011 Panthers team that lost to Oak Hill in the Division III state semifinals.
At the time, Schill’s father was a member of the Elyria Catholic boys coaching staff.
“I remember my sister and I skipped school and went down to Columbus for the game,” Schill said. “We wore green wigs, we painted our faces green. We were so excited for them.”
Schill knows this is her last chance to make more memories for herself and the next generation of Panthers and finally bring home that elusive state championship.
“It’s our time,” she said. “We need to peak right now. We’re ready to play our best basketball. We want to make it down to Columbus again. It’s my senior year. I want to go out with a bang.”
Last season, Schill played some of her best ball in the postseason with eight points and a season-high four assists in a sectional game against Trinity. In the district final against Lutheran West, she had three steals, three assists and a season-high four rebounds.
This season, Schill has already had high games of 15 points, six assists and six steals. She’s averaging 5.9 points and 2.5 assists.
While Schill doesn’t have the flashiness of Panthers star point guard Faith Williams or the power to impose her will on others like junior post Ally Winnen, her calm and steady senior leadership could make the difference between Elyria Catholic being a team that falters in the postseason and one that gets another chance to win in Columbus.
“Regan is a quiet leader,” Rothgery said. “It took a her a couple of years before I ever got a response other than ‘fine’ when I asked her any question but as she’s matured she’s really started to open up and take a leadership role on the team.
“She doesn’t want to be a superstar, she just wants to win. You have to have the physical ability and the right personality to be successful. Regan has both but she also has something extra. It’s something born into a kid to have the ability to do something tough and not get a lot of credit for it.”
Schill is focused on the next task for Elyria Catholic, which is securing an outright Great Lakes Conference championship and heading into districts on a strong note. Still, she’s had moments when she catches herself thinking about how her time with the Elyria Catholic basketball family will soon be over.
“When it comes to an end it’s going to be hard,” Schill said. “Since sixth grade, basketball has been my life. It’s going to be an odd feeling when I wake up and I don’t have basketball practice.”
She’s hoping that day won’t come until March 17, the day after the Division III state championship game.