Monday, March 19th, 2007
By Gary R. Rasberry
Lavender and CCC prove to be too much for St. John's
COLUMBUS - Cleveland Central Catholic came up big in the second half, capturing its first state title with a 51-45 win over Delphos St. John's on Saturday at the Schottenstein Center on the campus of The Ohio State University.
The Ironmen end their season at 25-1 as the Blue Jays, losing in the championship game for the first time in six championship game appearances, end their year with a respectable 25-2 mark.
"It was a great game. I thought our kids played extremely hard and tough," said Grothouse.
The question would be if the Blue Jays would be able to contain Ms. Basketball Jantel Lavender, just as Versailles was able to keep her to just 14 points in Thursday's state semifinal.
Lavender got her points in the first half. Unfortunately for the Ironmen, she was the only consistent scorer in the first half.
Early on, Lavender was in control as the Ironmen led 9-2 early. St. John's came back, thanks to threes by Laura German and Alisha Byrne to trail 15-14 at the end of the first quarter.
Instead of staying beyond on the arc and firing away, the Blue Jays made a concerted effort driving the lane against CCC. All 10 points St. John's scored in the second quarter came off layups, allowing the MAC representatives to take a 24-21 halftime lead.
"What we wanted to do is put pressure on Lavender and (Sheena) Taylor," said Grothouse. "We wanted to attack them off the dribble. I felt if we did that, they'd have to help, which would open up some cuts or the outside threes for us."
The Ironmen finally found someone to take the heat off Lavender. Candyce Flynn scored seven points in the third quarter to help CCC outscore the Blue Jays 17-9 taking a 38-33 lead going into the final eight minutes. The big shot coming when Flynn nailed a three-pointer, the only Ironmen trey of the game, late in the third.
"She (the St. John's defender) was slacking off a lot. For me that's disrespectful," said Flynn. "I know what my game is. I could have come down and shot the three all the time, but we had to get Jantel open."
In the fourth, the Ironmen tried to pull away, but the Blue Jays continued to stay in the game, getting as close as two points at 46-44 on a Brittany Pohlman jumper.
CCC called a timeout with 2:11 left and looked to slow things down. After pressure didn't work in getting the ball back, the Blue Jays, who had just three team fouls in the half so far, had to foul to get CCC in the bonus.
St. John's got as close as three down the stretch, but CCC held off the Blue Jays for the state crown.
CCC head coach Brian Arth was full of praise of the Blue Jays
"I knew it was going to be a very tough game," said Arth. "We've never played a team this disciplined before. (The way) they execute their offense, it's incredible. That's all we talked about. If we don't get out on that perimeter and chase those guards and shooters, we're in for a long night."
"Even at the end of the game, we had several turnovers where we had opportunities," said Grothouse. "We just couldn't get the basket to fall. These kids played their hearts out. That's what makes for a very emotional loss for us."
Lavender earned Outstanding Player of the Tournament awards in scoring 23 points pulling down nine rebounds and blocking six shots. Flynn, who will head to Morehead State next season, added 11 points, nine coming in the second half. Angela Bryant joined the pair on the all-tournament team.
Pohlman led the Blue Jays with nine points, Kim Miller added eight and the duo of Victoria Recker and Zefiryn Bryan scored six each. Pohlman and Jeanne Bockey rounded out the D-IV all-tournament team.
"We had four goals going into this year," said Grothouse. "To win the tip-off tournament at Bath, which we did. To win the MAC, which we did. To go undefeated on the season, which we lost our final game. To be state champs, which we were one game away. If you're in any kind of business or organization and you can reach half your goals, or be one step away like these girls are, you know you had a fantastic year."
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