Story by Jim Horvath
Photos and video by Larry Bennet
The first six minutes of the fourth quarter probably seemed like six hours of total frustration to the Magnificat basketball team.
After scoring six unanswered points to take a 36-33 lead, the Blue Streaks had a massive power outage offensively to start the final quarter. Wadsworth took advantage, going on a 15-0 run on its way to a 54-42 win in a Division I regional semifinal Tuesday night at Strongsville.
“We had worked so hard to get that lead,” said Magnificat head coach Meghann Hubach, whose team misfired on its first 12 shot attempts of the fourth quarter.
“Our first half was good. They ended on a run, but we always know that good teams make runs,” Hubach said. “It was a matter of us making our run, but unfortunately we never made another one in the fourth quarter.
“They played good, fundamental half-court defense. Obviously, we were scouted and they knew our players’ tendencies. They exposed a few of our weaknesses, and they made every shot tough for us. Even if it was close to the basket, it was still a difficult shot,” she added.
Hubach agreed that the two teams seemed like mirror images of each other throughout most of the game. There were eight lead changes in the first half alone in a fast-paced - and sometimes sloppy - 16 minutes of play.
“We talked about that in the two days we had to prepare for this game,” Hubach said. “We said we were very much the same team. We both have five kids who play really hard, who get all over the floor on defense, who can shoot from the outside and score on the inside.
“We both rebound the ball for our overall lack of size. We knew it was going to be like playing ourselves,” she added.
A 3-point shot from Paige Wise and a baseline jumper from Bridget Pryatel gave the Blue Streaks a 19-14 lead after one quarter of play. The Grizzlies had 10 turnovers in the first half, but still managed to rally to take a 28-25 halftime lead. Two straight buckets from Taylore Robinson and a drive for two from Jessie Gearhart provided the final lead change of the half.
In the meantime, Wise found herself in foul trouble with three before the break. Her fourth foul sent her to the bench with 4:12 left in the third quarter with Magnificat holding a 30-28 lead.
Wadswoth jumped back into the lead on a 3-pointer from Haley Hassinger and a rebound for two by Peyton Booth. But the Blue Streaks came right back, getting a pair of scores from Stephanie Haas and a score inside by Maddie Barry with :08.9 seconds left in the quarter.
Wadsworth’s long-range 3-pointer at the buzzer was disallowed by the officials. So instead of a tie game, Magnificat held its 36-33 lead heading into the fourth. Despite having the momentum in their favor, however, the Streaks began to falter.
Christy Cingel got a steal and drove in for two, then Gearhart split a pair of free throws to tie the score at 36. The Grizzlies were starting to have their way under the boards, forcing Hubach to call timeout with 5:51 left.
Wadsworth, however, used a 14-5 rebounding advantage to help keep its run alive. A score inside by Booth gave the Grizzlies the lead for good, then a 3-pointer from point guard Rachel Goddard from the top of the key made it 41-36 with 4:06 left.
Goddard followed up with a rebound and a coast-to-coast layup, prompting another Blue Streak timeout. Wise re-entered the game, but never scored again. Haas finally broke the scoring drought on a layup with 2:01 left, but the damage had been done as the Streaks trailed, 48-38.
“We had a drought like that earlier this season against Hathaway Brown,” Hubach said. “It wasn’t quite that long, probably around four minutes. Haas and Barilla typically have a lot of those shots go in, Barry the same thing.
“But for whatever reason, they didn’t go in tonight,” she added.
Haas, who scored her team’s final six points of the season, led the Blue Streaks with 20 points. Barilla was next with nine points, while Wise had seven, all in the first half. Magnificat also struggled at the free throw line, hitting on just three of 11 attempts.
Goddard led all scorers with 21 points, while Gearhart and Robinson chipped in with nine and eight points, respectively. The Grizzlies also finished the game with a 39-23 edge on the boards, with Booth grabbing 12 rebounds.
“We typically take more free throws than that in a game,” Hubach said.
“That’s a little on the low end for us,” she said. “Then you’ve got to make them. They made their free throws and shot more of them than we did (13 of 21). They got themselves to the line and we didn’t, especially early on.
“One of our keys tonight was to not allow them second opportunities. We knew we had a decent size matchup with them, so we knew we had to out-hustle them on the boards. But there were stretches where they got the best of us and it resulted in a layup or a 3-point play,” she added.
Despite the loss, Hubach felt her team had nothing to hang their heads about.
“This is the first time we’ve been to regionals in 10 years,” Hubach said. “I credit the senior class for that. They’ve done a great job ever since their sophomore season. Four of our starting five have started or played significant minutes the past three years.
“They got us closer to where we want to be. They built the foundation for that,” she added.
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