CUYAHOGA FALLS — Elyria Catholic senior Faith Williams has done a lot of incredible things on a basketball court.
Turning a tight defensive struggle into a one-sided romp in a span of about two minutes Wednesday night might be her greatest accomplishment to date.
Williams scored all 11 of her points in the closing minutes of the first half to propel the Panthers to a 52-32 win over Ravenna Southeast in a Division III regional semifinal at Cuyahoga Falls High School.
The Panthers (22-4) were struggling on offense early but clinging to a 14-7 lead when Williams scored her first points of the game with a basket to stretch the lead to nine. Then on three of Elyria Catholic’s next four possessions Williams stepped up and hit 3-pointers. What was once a close game turned into a 25-9 Elyria Catholic lead going into halftime.
“In the first quarter shots weren’t really falling for me,” Williams said. “In the second quarter it was still a pretty close game and I knew I needed to hit a couple to get that lead. Once I hit those threes we were able to spread out the lead and that’s just what we needed before halftime.”
Elyria Catholic was able to make the most of its size advantage against a Southeast team whose tallest player was 5-foot-10.
Junior Ally Winnen, a 6-1 post, led the Panthers with a game-high 21 points. She also pulled down nine rebounds.
“We’re very unselfish and we move the ball really well. If someone is hot, we’re going to get them the ball. That’s how we can score quickly,” Winnen said. “We took advantage of our size in the second half and really pounded the ball inside.”
Winnen scored 14 of her points in the second half. She also said the Panthers, who made the Final Four a year ago, were able to use their postseason experience to their advantage.
“The nerves last year were way worse than they were this year,” Winnen said. “We knew this was their Super Bowl and we had the advantage because we were here last year, so we weren’t going to let anything affect us.”
Southeast (21-4) looked poised to make a late run, cutting what had been a 19-point deficit to 13 early in the fourth quarter on a 3-pointer from sophomore guard Emma Keto, who had nine points.
The Panthers immediately responded with 3-pointers from Regan Schill and Kaylie Griffin and pair of Winnen layups to extend the lead with less than five minutes remaining.
Elyria Catholic’s defense held Pirates senior Andrea Radcliff, Division III Northeast Inland District Player of the Year, to 12 points.
“We knew we were better than this team and when we turn it on they can’t stop us,” said junior Abby Winnen, who came off the bench to score four points. “Early on we were rushing our shots, then we started going to the high-low and forcing the ball inside and they didn’t have an answer for that.”
This was the 12th win in a row for the Panthers and the eighth consecutive by at least 17 points. Elyria Catholic will face Doylestown Chippewa on Saturday in a rematch of last year’s regional final. The Chipps defeated Champion 67-44 in Wednesday’s other semifinal.
“When you knock down three 3-pointers in a quarter like Faith did it’s obviously going to make a difference,” Panthers coach Eric Rothgery said. “The defensive intensity was there from the beginning.
“We’ve been able to go on some really nice runs in our past few games and I think our depth really helps that. That was a good team we faced today, well-coached and well-disciplined, but we played 10 people in the first quarter so we’re able to keep people fresh and play a high-pressure game and we can get everyone a breather and a drink of water and get them back out on the court fresh. That helps our intensity.”
Schill and freshman Annika Bredel had six points each for the Panthers, who advanced to the regional final for the third time in the past four seasons.
Elyria Catholic 52, Southeast 32
SOUTHEAST (32): Halle Morehead 1-2-4, Olivia Neer 0-1-1, Emma Keto 3-0-9, Shelby Morehead 2-0-4, Andrea Radcliff 4-3-12, Sarah Neer 1-0-2, Rachel Neer 0-0-0. Totals 11-6-32.
ELYRIA CATHOLIC (52): Faith Williams 4-0-11, Regan Schill 2-1-6, Emily Rapacz 0-1-1, Abby Winnen 1-2-4, Annika Bredel 2-1-6, Kaylie Griffin 1-0-3, Ally Winnen 10-1-21. Totals 20-6-52.
Southeast 4 5 15 8 — 32
Elyria Catholic 6 19 13 14 — 52
Three-point goals: Southeast (Keto 3, Radcliffe), Elyria Catholic (Williams 3, Schill, Griffin, Bredel). Field goals: Southeast 11-57 (19 percent), Elyria Catholic 20-53 (38 percent). Free throws: Southeast 6-10 (60 percent), Elyria Catholic 6-12 (50 percent). Rebounds: Southeast 26, Elyria Catholic 44. Turnovers: Southeast 10, Elyria Catholic 11. Fouls: Southeast 13, Elyria Catholic 15.