Friday, March 2nd, 2018
Riders fall to Bulldogs
By Dave Stilwell
PAULDING - Nearly three quarters into the Division II girls basketball district semifinals on Thursday night at Paulding High School, Cinderella was still dancing.
But unable to come up with any offense at the start of the fourth quarter against the top-seeded Defiance Bulldogs, the clock struck midnight for St. Marys.
Defiance pulled away down the stretch to post a 45-35 victory over the Roughriders, who finish their season at 11-14.
"If you were to ask most people that know girls basketball in this area, if St. Marys would have been in the districts, they would have said, 'No,' " St. Marys coach Jon Burke said. "Our girls have been told the last three years that they can cut down nets and they did it this year, so I'm proud of them."
The Roughriders knocked off second-seed Bath in the sectional finals and got off to a fast start against the Bulldogs.
Makenna Mele and Syd Cisco pushed the Riders out to a three-point lead early in the contest, but St. Marys went the last four minutes of the first quarter and the first four minutes of the second quarter without a field goal.
Defiance built a 17-10 lead with 4:25 left in the half before Cisco ended the drought with a jumper along the baseline to trigger a 5-0 St. Marys run.
Morgan Wityk gave the Bulldogs some breathing room with a bucket, but Cisco answered with a trey and a two-point buzzer-beater at the end of the half to put the Riders up 20-19.
The lead changed hands four times in the third quarter. With just over a minute left in the period, Caroline Turner hit a driving layup to put Defiance into the lead for good, 31-29.
St. Marys hit another dead spot at the start of the fourth quarter and did not findthe scoring column until Mele scored in the paint with 3:24 left in the game.
By that time, Defiance had rebuilt its seven-point lead, 36-29, and then spent the final 3:11 making nine of 15 free throws to put the game one ice.
"We panicked a little bit," Burke said. "We've been trying to be a little more patient on offense. I give Defiance's defense a lot of credit because they play tough, but we were looking for shots and trying to force it. We probably took some shots that we shouldn't have."
Second chance points were big for the Bulldogs, especially down the stretch, with all of their fourth-quarter field goals coming as a result of offensive rebounds. Defiance outrebounded St. Marys 41-23.
Cisco and Mele accounted for 32 of the Roughriders' 35 points.
"Syd is our best outside shooter, and Makenna is our best inside player, so we're definitely looking to get them the ball," Burke said. "We want them shooting the ball."
Mele finished with 17 to pace the Riders, while Cisco had 15.
Turner lead a balanced Bulldog attack with 12 points.
Defiance, 20-4, advances to the district finals on Saturday night against Napoleon, which advanced earlier in the evening with a 54-44 victory over Kenton.