NORWALK — The Bell tolled Tuesday night to mark the end of Avon Lake’s dream season.
The Shoregals didn’t have an answer for Canton McKinley senior Kierstan Bell in a 60-33 Division I regional semifinal loss at Norwalk High School.
Bell, a two-time Ohio Ms. Basketball, scored a game-high 27 to lead the Bulldogs.
Avon Lake hung with McKinley, the No. 2 team in the final AP state poll, for a little while, ending the first quarter down just 13-8.
However, midway through the second period the Bulldogs (25-1) went on a 16-4 run to open a 36-20 lead and never looked back.
“We missed about nine layups in the first half,” Avon Lake coach Dave Zvara said. “The girls were excited, they had some adrenaline running through them. The girls gave a great effort tonight just like they did all year.”
The Shoregals (22-4) had one of their worst shooting nights of the season, going 12-for-57 (21 percent) from the field and 5-of-11 (45 percent) from the free throw line.
“Coming into the game and seeing how many people were flooding into this gymnasium it was really overwhelming,” said Avon Lake senior Amber Achladis, who had four points.
“We had a lot of people from our city come to watch us tonight. They didn’t come to see us give up without any dignity so we just kept battling.”
Just like they did all season, the Shoregals were still diving after loose balls, stepping up to take charges and putting their bodies on the line even when McKinley extended the lead to 20 points or so for most of the fourth quarter.
“We were down 12 at the half but we really felt like we were down one or two points,” said junior Arianna Negron, who led the Shoregals with 10 points. “We kept our heads up and we kept playing like we still had a chance.”
Whatever chance Avon Lake might have had heading into the second half quickly evaporated when McKinley started the third period on a 9-0 run to go up 45-26.
Bell, who scored 20 points in the first half, was the only McKinley player in double figures. She also shared the team lead in rebounds (10) with sophomore Kyla Foster.
“If we could have made some of those early shots the game could have been totally different,” Zvara said. “You make those layups and you build some momentum, but instead they come down and hit a shot and instead of being down two, all of a sudden you’re down six or seven.”
McKinley will face Toledo Notre Dame Academy, a 45-29 winner over Medina, in Saturday’s regional final.
“We thought we were ready for what was going to happen at the beginning of the game but it was a little more intensified,” senior Elizabeth Murdock said. “I don’t know if they got in our heads or if it was the atmosphere. We tried to enjoy it the entire time but it just came out the way it did,”
Achladis said the Shoregals’ season, which included the school’s first district title in 18 years and a 10-game winning streak heading into regionals, won’t be defined by Tuesday’s loss.
“This was the best season we had in my four years here, not just because of our record,” Achladis said. “This team got along together so well, we were all like sisters. Coach made the season so much fun. What I’m going to remember is the memories of my teammates.”
Canton McKinley 60, Avon Lake 33
AVON LAKE (33): Amber Achladis 0-2-2, Arianna Negron 4-0-10, Emily Yarham 1-1-3, Elizabeth Murdock 3-0-6, Allie Heschel 2-1-7, Kelsey McGinty 0-1-1, Emma Knick 2-0-4. Totals 12-5-33.
CANTON MCKINLEY (60): Vanessa Sales 2-0-5, Jazzemeire Rampey 2-0-4, Kenedy Flinn 1-2-4, Nakyah Terrell 3-1-9, Kierstan Bell 11-4-27, Jazzlyn Kramer 3-1-7, Kyla Foster 2-0-4. Totals 24-8-60.
Avon Lake 8 16 7 2 — 33
Canton McKinley 13 23 16 8 — 60
Three-point goals: Avon Lake (Heschel 2, Negron 2), Canton McKinley (Terrell 2, Bell, Sales). Field goals: Avon Lake 12-57 (21 percent), Canton McKinley 24-61 (39 percent). Free throws: Avon Lake 5-11 (45 percent), Canton McKinley 8-13 (62 percent). Rebounds: Avon Lake 33, Canton McKinley 45. Turnovers: Avon Lake 13, Canton McKinley 12. Total fouls: Avon Lake 9, Canton McKinley 11.