ELYRIA — After 13 years, the girls Lorain County Holiday Classic title left Elyria for the first time last season.
It will come back to town tonight.
With a claustrophobic weak-side defense, Elyria Catholic slowed
6-foot-3 Lorain star Alex Harris in the opener of the 15th classic Friday night.
Meantime, the Panthers got 14 points from senior guard Brittney McNamara and 12 points and 17 rebounds from senior post Karissa McGrath on their way to a 46-39 victory.
EC and host Elyria meet for the championship about 7:30 tonight. The Pioneers routed Beaumont School of Cleveland Heights in Friday’s nightcap.
With McGrath scoring two close-range baskets and two free throws, the Panthers took a 6-0 lead and never trailed. They took an 11-point lead, 37-26, with a 9-0 run midway through the fourth quarter that included two baskets – one a nifty reverse layup – by freshman guard Riley Schill.
In fact, EC started two freshmen guards, 5-6 Schill and 5-8 Josie Carandang, alongside three seniors, McNamara, McGrath and Shannon Hopkins. The seniors are the only players left from the Panthers’ Division III Final Four team of 2011.
“I’m happy because this was a good start to our season,” McGrath said. “It gets us in the groove and the nerves and the shivers out of the way, and I think we actually played as a team tonight. I just wanted us to get the league, get this behind us and just move forward.”
While EC gave Harris room when she worked outside as a guard, they bottled her up when she moved into the post. They fronted her chiefly with Hopkins and 5-7 senior Erin Herschelman and got weak-side help from the 5-9 McGrath and others. McGrath, who has a 21-inch vertical leap, outrebounded Harris, 17-7.
Harris, whose breathing seemed labored, was tended to after the game by the Titans staff, including coach Mark Feldmann. Her sister, Shayla Wright, said she thought Alex was exhausted and might have been slightly dehydrated. She played the entire game.
Elyria Catholic’s Hopkins talked about the team’s defensive plan for Harris, a Penn State recruit.
“We knew Alexis Harris is a really good driver, so we wanted to keep her up in the key as much as possible,” Hopkins said. “We wanted to limit her driving ability, because when she gets in the key, that’s where she’s the most dangerous. Erin Herschelman and I played really good defense and tried to limit her layups.”
Harris was the only Titan in double figures, although junior guard Destiny Wilson scored eight. McNamara and McGrath were the only Panthers in double figures.
EC coach Eric Rothgery said he didn’t hesitate to start and give significant playing time to his freshmen because they played extensive summer basketball schedules. There are four ninth-graders on the roster – Josie Carandang, Riley Schill, Julia Scarpelli and Becky Horvath. All saw action.
“They got some experience,” Rothgery said. “Josie, Riley and Becky played on the same AAU team last year and we put in 40 games this summer just because I knew we were going to have a lot of freshmen and I wanted to get them some playing time.”
He also praised the work of Hopkins, McGrath and McNamara.
“If Brittney hits some threes (she made three) it really opens things up and Karissa is arguably the best female athlete in Lorain County, that’s my opinion,” he said. “She’s a great volleyball player, track runner and she can jump out of the gym. She can outrun anyone on the basketball floor so when she gets it going, it’s kind of fun to watch.”
Contact Bob Daniels at 329-7135 or email@example.com.
Elyria Catholic 46, Lorain 39
LORAIN (39): Gretchen Connibear 2-0-6, Alex Harris 4-6-14, Angelique Flores 2-0-5, Kathleen Kovacs 2-1-6, Destiny Wilscon 3-1-8, Ashley Malone 0-0-0, Aaliyah Anderson 0-0-0. Totals: 13-8-39.
ELYRIA CATHOLIC (46): Julia Scarpelli 0-0-0, Josie Carandang 2-0-5, Brittney McNamara 4-3-14, Riley Schill 2-3-7, Therese Orsagos 0-0-0, Shannon Hopkins 2-2-6, Karissa McGrath 5-2-12, Becky Horvath 0-0-0, Erin Herschelman 0-2-2. Totals: 15-12-46.
Lorain 3 13 5 18 – 39
Elyria Catholic 6 18 4 18 – 46
3-point goals: Lorain 5-13 (Connibear 2, Kovacs, Flores, Wilson); Elyria Catholic 4-16 (McNamara 3, Carandang). Field goals: Lorain 13-62 (20.9 percent); Elyria Catholic 15-53 (28.3 percent). Free throws: Lorain 8-20; Elyria Catholic 12-17. Rebounds: Lorain 33; Elyria Catholic 43. Turnovers: Lorain 13; Elyria Catholic 20. Fouled out: None.