In three of the last four post seasons, Magnificat and Midpark have squared off in Division I district tournament play.
There was no need to wait for tournament play this time around.
The two area basketball powers opened the season last Friday night in the opening round of the Great Lakes Classic at Midpark High School. With a packed house watching on, the host Meteors got a third-quarter spark from Korie Maryo and came away with a 69-60 win that made it two in a row over their tournament rivals.
The Blue Streaks, coming off last year’s stellar 21-2 campaign, rebounded the next day and claimed a 55-49 win over Sylvania Northview. But on Friday, they couldn’t find an answer for Midpark’s junior sharpshooter as she finished with five treys and 17 points.
“She’s a nice shooter, and we didn’t do a great job finding where she was at,” said Magnificat head coach Meghann Hubach. “She got some nice, easy open looks, and good shooters knock down those shots.”
Down 36-34 at halftime, the Blue Streaks tied the game early in the third quarter on a layup from Corie Calabrase. Midpark’s Rachel Theriot answered with a jumper, then Maryo drilled her second trey of the game for a 41-36 lead with 5:24 left in the quarter.
The Blue Streaks found themselves playing catch up the rest of the way.
Jessica Barnes nailed a 3-pointer for the Meteors, followed by a driving layup and free throw by Theriot. Two straight 3-pointers by Maryo, the second coming with 29 seconds left in the third, made it 53-45.
In the fourth quarter, Maryo’s fifth trey with 4:15 left in the game made it 63-53 to help cap off a 12-6 Midpark run.
“Korie is a third-year varsity player. We’ve had a unique relationship because I’ve coached her since she was in sixth grade,” said Midpark head coach Stephanie Mentz.
“It’s kind of funny, because some of the coaches look at Korie as if this is her seventh year at Midpark,” said Mentz with a laugh. “She ended her season last year in the regional final having a big game. We talked to her all summer about how that game needed to springboard her into this year.
“We’re looking to replace role players and key players. I think she showed us tonight that she’s ready to do that for us,” she added.
For Hubach, there were times Friday night’s game reminded her of last year’s 48-33 loss to the Meteors in the Division I district championship game at Valley Forge. In that game back in March, the Blue Streaks had an early lead before Midpark ran away in the second half.
“At times, it reminded me of last year’s game,” Hubach said. “I felt like things were going well, but they’re a good team and they made some runs. We made a run to close out the second quarter, so we were fortunate to go into the locker room only down two.
“They played well in the second half. Not that we played poorly, but we were always having to play catchup,” she added.
Magnificat senior Stephanie Haas tied Theriot for game scoring honors with 22 points, while teammate Maddie Barry chipped in with 13 points and 10 rebounds. Midpark’s 6-3 sophomore, Stasha Carey, wound up with 12 points and 12 rebounds.
“For us, it’s only the first game,” sad Hubach. “Yes, we have a number of returning players, but we graduated some nice talent too as well as some of our leaders.
“We need to see who are leaders are. We need for them to emerge and push us through when things get tough. It’s great to identify the things we don’t do as well as we should so we’re ready for the next 20-some games,” she added.
Magnificat returns to action Wednesday night when the Streaks travel to Cuyahoga Heights. The Meteors are off until Dec. 7 when they begin defense of their Southwestern Conference crown at Brecksville.