By Cort Reynolds
Ada Herald Writer
KENTON - Ada raced to a 28-0 lead and crushed overmatched county foe Hardin Northern 50-18 in the first Division IV girls basketball sectional final at Kenton Saturday night.
The Lady Bulldogs held the Lady Polar Bears scoreless for the first 13:27 of play to win their second straight final over Hardin Northern and advance to the St. Marys district against Minster Thursday, February 28.
Number one seed Ada improved to 15-9 with the lopsided win, while HN finished its season 2-21.
"It's good to cut down the nets here for a second year in a row," agreed Ada coach Neal Dumbaugh. "These kids deserve it, we have two good seniors. The important thing is, the season is still alive and we are going back to districts."
Ten Lady Bulldogs scored in a balanced attack, led by senior defensive ace Morgan Rouch, who scored 10 points. "She has been so solid for us defensively this year," noted Dumbaugh.
HN head coach Brady Mast took the loss in stride. "I thought obviously, offensive struggles doomed us again," he said. "I thought we played pretty decent defense for the first six minutes."
Both teams started out tentatively on offense. A putback by sophomore Alexis Amburgey two minutes into the fray were the first points of the night, and the purple and gold never trailed.
Ada went almost two more minutes before scoring again on a pair of Rouch foul shots. Two Tori Wyss charity stripers made it 6-0 with 3:14 to go in the opening stanza.
Freshman Sidney Faine netted the second Bulldog basket on a driving banker, and she added a free throw to complete a conventional three-point play at the 52-second mark.
Ada picked up its halfcourt zone trap intensity as Rouch stole a pass and scampered in for a left-handed breakaway layin seconds later. Junior Alexis Gonzaga added a layup with seven ticks to go to give Ada a 13-0 bulge after one period.
By getting out in transition, the Bulldogs began to loosen up on offense. Rouch tallied another southpaw layup in transition, followed by a Taylor Willeke fast break bunny. Rouch splashed a pair from the line.
Ada sophomore Lindsay Walden stole the ball along the right sideline and passed ahead to Willeke, who converted a three-point drive for a 22-0 cushion 6:18 before intermission.
Walden then bounced in a nine-foot shot in the lane, followed by her eight-foot banker from the right block. Rouch stepped up and drilled a 14-footer from the right elbow to build the margin to 28-0 with three minutes left in the half.
HN finally got on the board when junior guard Kylee Hooker stole the ball in the backcourt and laid it in at the 2:33 mark.
Amburgey answered with a basket, followed by a Rachael Wildman foul shot and two more by Wyss. Katelyn Guagenti bounced in an 11-foot shot off the left baseline to close out the first half scoring with Ada comfortably ahead, 35-2.
Wyss netted a pair at the line to open the second half, and Walden then scored a fast break layin off a Willeke pass to make the lead 39-2 at the 7:11 juncture.
HN senior Chelsey DeLong buried a right corner trifecta at the 5:50 mark. Willeke answered with the lone Bulldog triple of the night from the left wing 80 seconds later.
Hooker then splashed a three-pointer to make it 42-8. Wyss canned her eighth foul shot in a row and Faine canned a running banker. But Hooker's second trey of the quarter from out top bounced in to bring the Bears within 46-11 after three periods.
Speedy junior guard Hannah Price scored all four of the Ada points in the final period. She knocked down a lane bank shot with 3:47 left. Hooker scored on a stickback 42 seconds later.
Price then stole the ball, executed a nice spin move on the fast break, and laid it in to extend the lead to 50-13 with 2:37 remaining.
Bear sophomore Brooklyn Watts drained a 14-footer at the 2:12 mark and DeLong added a left corner triple with 18 seconds to go to close the scoring on a 5-0 flurry for Northern.
"When you can't put the ball in the basket, it becomes a struggle on defense too," explained Mast.
Willeke and Wyss each scored eight points, with all of the Wyss points coming at the charity stripe. Walden contributed six and Faine added five markers.
The hustling Hooker led Northern with 10 points, despite playing with a recently dislocated pinky finger on her right shooting hand. She did not play in the earlier game against the Bulldogs due to injury. DeLong added six on a pair of treys.
HN committed a respectable 17 turnovers, roughly half of the number they made in the first loss to Ada. The Bulldogs stomped the Bears 60-14 at home earlier this season after racing to a 24-0 lead.
Northern did not shoot a free throw in the sectional finals, settling for outside shots against the Ada zone. The Bulldogs knocked down 15 of 18 at the foul line (83 percent). Northern sank more three-point baskets than two-point goals, four to three, and won the second half, 16-15.
"We wanted to get out of the sectionals with two wins and injury-free, and I think we did that," said Dumbaugh.
Ada 50 (15-9)
Willeke 3 1-1 8, Rouch 3 4-4 10, Walden 3 0-0 6, Wyss 0 8-8 8, Amburgey 2 0-0 4, Wildman 0 1-4 1, Gonzaga 1 0-0 2, Faine 2 1-1 5, Price 2 0-0 4, Guagenti 1 0-0 2. Totals: 16-1/15-18/50. 3-pointer: Willeke 1.
HN 18 (3-20)
Curtis 0, S. Schlatter 0, Watts 1 0-0 2, DeLong 2 0-0 6, Ferkins 0, Hooker 4 0-0 10. Totals: 3-4/0-0/18. 3-pointers: DeLong 2, Hooker 2.
1 2 3 4 F
Ada 13 22 11 4 50
HN 0 2 9 7 18
Ada advances to the St. Marys Div. IV district semifinals Feb. 28 against Minster (16-7, 7-2 MAC), which ran out to a 10-0 lead and knocked off league rival Ft. Recovery 47-40 at Coldwater in their sectional final. They will meet in the second district semi at approximately 8 p.m.
The Bulldog/Wildcat winner then goes on to the district finals Saturday, March 2 at 7 p.m. vs. the Waynesfield/Marion Local survivor. Minster was the second seed in the rugged Coldwater sectional, which featured six MAC teams, four of whom sported records well over .500.
MAC co-champion New Knoxville (19-4), which eliminated Ada in the semis last year, was the top seed at Coldwater but got upset by fourth-seeded Marion Local 45-40 Saturday night. The Lady Rangers were ranked 11th in the final Div. IV state AP poll yet blew a seven-point lead and were outscored 24-12 down the stretch to fall to defeat.
Thus the Lady Flyers (17-7, 6-3 MAC) will take on Waynesfield (16-7) in the first district semi Feb. 28 at 6:15 p.m. in St. Marys. The NWCC co-champion Tigers held off USV 50-47 in the Kenton sectional final nightcap Saturday night to sweep the Rams 2-0 this season.
ML stomped St. Henry 57-38 in their sectional opener Feb. 19.
Dumbaugh chose to look at the glass half-full when asked if the relatively soft sectional competition Ada faced - two teams with a combined record of 2-44 - was a good or bad thing for his troops heading on to St. Marys.
"You can look at it one of two ways in any situation; it is what you make of it," he said. "We won't see anything at districts we didn't see in the regular season, so I will look at it as a positive."
Ada played a rugged non-league schedule, facing the top six teams in the tough BVC and also taking on top-ranked Ottoville and 2012 regional finalist New Riegel, so they should be prepared for a difficult district. The St. Marys district champion advances to the Tipp City regional.