NORTH RIDGEVILLE — The first quarter was shaky, but the rest of the game was all Panthers.
Top-seeded Elyria Catholic won its second consecutive Division III district title by turning up the defense in a 52-32 win over seventh-seeded Lutheran East on Saturday afternoon at the North Ridgeville Academic Center.
The Panthers (21-4) missed 15 of 17 shots in the first quarter and trailed 9-8 heading into the second. That’s when the Elyria Catholic press started paying big dividends.
Elyria Catholic forced 10 turnovers and held the Falcons to just one point in the second quarter, reeling off a 22-0 run that started with five minutes left in the first half and extended into the third quarter to take control of the game.
Jasmine Johnson’s free throw at the 5:00 mark of the second tied the game at 10. The Falcons (13-11) didn’t score again until Alayah Henderson’s three-point play with 7:07 left in the third quarter.
At that point, Elyria Catholic had the game under control, leading 32-13 … and Regan Schill’s work on the defensive end was a big reason for that.
Schill had four of her game-high six steals in the second, while also forcing a pair of jump balls and coming up with numerous deflections.
“There are no more second chances after this,” Schill said. “This is my senior year and I’m going to lay it on the line for my teammates. We started off a little slow and I knew we needed to pick it up. I turned it up for my teammates.”
Schill grabbed all five of her rebounds in the first half, three on the offensive end. In one sequence, she rebounded a Faith Williams miss by outmuscling two Falcons, then kicked the ball out to Kaylie Griffin, who connected on a 3-pointer.
On the bench, Schill’s father, Joe, an assistant coach, turned to Elyria Catholic head coach Eric Rothgery and said, “She’s a beast.”
“Her defense was unbelievable,” Rothgery said of Schill. “I have to watch the film to see how many balls she got her hands on … steals, deflections, things like that. Steals are what show in the book, but she had deflections and different things.
“She was pretty intense out there today. She was in beast mode today, no doubt about it.”
Williams finished the game with 19 points, but even Falcons coach Matt Luecke thought Schill was the difference-maker.
“Regan is good, she’s always one of those players that’s in the right place at the right time,” Luecke said. “She’s not flashy. I fell in love with Faith Williams’ game watching film the last 48 hours. Regan is not one that jumps off the screen when you watch film, but she’s such a tough player.
“Every team has to have that player that doesn’t do the flashy stuff, that does the hard work and is a glue girl. She’s definitely a glue girl. She leads by action and is really impressive.”
Annika Bredel, a freshman, had two of her five steals in the second quarter for Elyria Catholic.
“We knew we had to pick it up because they weren’t going to go away,” Bredel said. “They came back against some other teams that were really good and they keep playing hard. We knew we had to keep playing hard defense.”
Tyra Eppinger led Lutheran East with 15 points and four rebounds, but the Falcons racked up 21 turnovers.
“Like I told our girls, we haven’t played a complete game all year,” Luecke said. “We’ve played three quarters, we’ve played two quarters … sometimes we’ve come out and played one quarter. Tonight I knew it was going to take a complete game.
“You tally up the first, third and fourth quarters and we lost by two. (The second) was our bad quarter. We overcame that against Kirtland and Independence, but Elyria Catholic is just too good. We weren’t overcoming that tonight.”
“We’ve worked so hard to get to this point,” Schill said. “This just shows our hard work and how much we’ve put into this sport and how hard we’ve worked for each other.”
Elyria Catholic 52, Lutheran East 32
LUTHERAN EAST (32): Dariah Kirksey 0-0-0, Kyra Bell 1-0-2, Jasmine Johnson 2-2-6, Alayah Henderson 2-2-6, Tyra Eppinger 7-1-15, Zio Hairston 1-0-3. Totals 13-5-32.
ELYRIA CATHOLIC (52): Faith Williams 6-5-19, Regan Schill 1-0-2, Annika Bredel 3-0-7, Kaylie Griffin 2-2-8, Ally Winnen 2-3-7, Emily Rapacz 1-0-3, Abby Winnen 1-0-2, Stephanie Griffin 2-0-4, Julia Allegretto 0-0-0, Skye Rawson 0-0-0, Meghan Janscura 0-0-0, Lexi Hall 0-0-0, Laxi Szalai 0-0-0, Shaniya Jackson 0-0-0, Sarah Griffin 0-0-0. Totals 18-10-52.
Lutheran East 9 1 14 8 — 32
Elyria Catholic 8 19 20 5 — 52
Three-point goals: Lutheran East 1-9 (Hairston), Elyria Catholic 6-20 (Williams 2, K. Griffin 2, Breidel, Rapacz). Field goals: Lutheran East 13-34 (38.2 percent), Elyria Catholic 18-47 (38.2 percent). Free throws: Lutheran East 5-11 (45.4 percent), Elyria Catholic 10-12 (83.3 percent); Rebounds: Lutheran East 20 (Eppinger 4), Elyria Catholic 31 (K. Griffin 8). Turnovers: Lutheran East 21, Elyria Catholic 15. Total fouls: Lutheran East 10, Elyria Catholic 15.