From left, Cloverleaf’s Brianna Gallagher, Helaina Limas and Cameron Tripp pose after defeating Streetsboro.
RON SCHWANE / GAZETTE Enlarge
WESTFIELD TWP. — Senior guard Helaina Limas paused a postgame interview as calls of “Helaina, Helaina, Helaina” echoed throughout the gymnasium. The ladder, scissors and net were waiting, and her Cloverleaf girls basketball teammates weren’t taking no for an answer.
The smiling, freshly minted 1,000-point scorer climbed to the top to begin the traditional ceremony and paused in jittery excitement, unsure what to do because so many voices were yelling in her direction. Finally, she cut a piece of the net and everyone cheered.
Forgive the Colts for the awkward moment. They’re new to this.
“OK, listen, am I supposed to cut a whole slice off? I didn’t know where to start,” a still-wound-tight Limas said with smiles, head bobs and hand gestures. “I felt nervous. Everybody was watching me.”
Cloverleaf had broken each post-practice huddle with “banner” this season, in reference to the blank one hanging on the wall. The dream came true Wednesday, when the Colts overcame a frustrating, nerve-riddled first quarter to dominate Streetsboro 59-28 and share the Portage Trail Conference Metro Division title with archrival Norton.
The history-making didn’t stop there. Limas surpassed 1,000 career points on a 3-pointer with 2:53 remaining in the first half, while Cloverleaf broke the school record for wins held previously by the 2003-04 and 2016-17 teams.
Those accomplishments led to a gaggle of emotions to deal with, but the memories will last forever.
“It’s exciting and overwhelming knowing we were the first team in school history to do this,” said center Mckenna Jordan, who had another physically imposing game with 18 points, 15 rebounds and four blocks. “We couldn’t do it without our teammates and our coaches. I’m really happy and ready for the postseason.”
Fitting with the way they’ve played virtually all season, the Colts (20-2, 13-1) were sloppy for long stretches and trailed 6-5 after eight minutes, but flipped momentum with a demoralizing 13-3 run to end the first half.
Even better, Limas’ milestone kick-started it.
Trudging along with five points and sitting at 999 after splitting free throws at the 5:21 mark, Limas initiated a play called “Junior” against the Rockets’ 2-3 zone and bolted to the corner off a screen. Classmate Brianna Gallagher then fired to Limas, whose attempt spun in for only the 34th 3-pointer of her 78-game career.
The game was stopped without a timeout in an agreement between Streetsboro coach Carl Singer and the Colts’ John Carmigiano. The crowd was 100 percent aware of the moment, anyway, and Limas had a blank face as her teammates congratulated her briefly near the bench.
There was still more work to do, as Cloverleaf led only 16-12.
Limas’ three sparked the dizzying run — she added two driving layups — while Jordan scored on a baseline jumper and Jenna Oliver split free throws. Then Limas pulled off the shot of the night, taking an outlet pass from Jordan and chucking a 40-footer in front of the scorer’s table that connected at the buzzer.
That put the Colts up 26-15, and Limas then scored five straight points to push the ante to 40-21 with 1:52 left in the third quarter. No. 23 didn’t take another shot and instead dished four assists, giving her 20 points, four dimes, eight steals and three blocks in another standout performance.
“I couldn’t sleep last night. I’ve been so jittery, like, all day,” Limas said. “If you would have told me that (the 1,000th point would come on a 3-pointer), I never would have believed it. I’m not a shooter and I’ve never been a confident shooter, so to do that, I was pretty excited.”
The final score was nothing like a come-from-behind 41-33 win over the Rockets (9-13, 8-6) on Jan. 17, and defense was a big reason why. Streetsboro shot 13-for-57 (.228), including 1-for-14 from 3-point range, and committed 27 turnovers.
While the Colts mixed in their customary trapping 2-2-1 and 1-2-2 zones, a Gallagher-led box-and-one that extended beyond the 3-point line to create ball pressure made all the difference. Gallagher hounded speedy guard Rachel Bolyard, who entered play averaging 17.9 points and 10.1 free throw attempts, to a season-low two points on 1-for-14 shooting (0-of-5 3-pointers).
The Rockets had early success with rebounding from center Elizabeth Neff (8 points, 13 rebounds) and power forward Maddy Rice (10, 11) but were emotionally fried in the third quarter when Bolyard sat the majority of it and Cloverleaf extended its lead to 42-23. Cloverleaf power forward Lisa Wangler (6 points, 10 rebounds) was a big factor during that run with five points and five offensive rebounds.
“We knew their good player, (Bolyard), needed shut down, so that was my job tonight,” said Gallagher, who had five points and three assists. “It worked really good. She’s a good player, and we knew that she’d be a threat. We had to make sure to not give them a chance to make it a close game.”
As the junior varsity players competed in the final seconds, the bench was remarkably calm, and only a few showed noticeable excitement at the final buzzer before lining up for the handshake line because, as Limas put it, “we could wait one more minute because we’ve waited all these years.”
Eventually everyone meandered toward midcourt with the 50-member student section and was unsure what to do until someone tossed confetti into the air. The PTC Metro championship trophy was presented by athletic director Craig Walkup, and the customary barrage of photos commenced.
As players took turns cutting down the net, point guard Cameron Tripp tickled assistant coach Jeff Patterson’s head with her piece of history, leading to a big smile from the 1972 Cloverleaf graduate. Finally, Carmigiano climbed to cut the final thread of nylon, but only as Patterson vaulted up the other side so they could do so together.
From now until all time, “2018” will be the first number listed on the banner at Cloverleaf High.
“I honestly think this came as a surprise to all of us,” Limas said. “We never thought we’d be 20-2 and winning the league. It was a huge surprise, but a great surprise at that.”
Contact Albert Grindle at (330) 721-4043 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Cloverleaf 59, Streetsboro 28
STREETSBORO 6 9 8 5 — 28
CLOVERLEAF 5 21 16 17 — 59
Streetsboro — Breannda Davis 0-1-1, Maddy Rice 5-0-10, Elizabeth Neff 4-0-8, Rachel Bolyard 1-0-2, Dawn Dial 3-0-7, Julia Laudato 0-0-0, Lauren Banks 0-0-0, Tamia Davis 0-0-0, Allison Blondeaux 0-0-0, Navi Chima 0-0-0. TOTALS: 13-1-28.
Cloverleaf — Brianna Gallagher 1-3-5, Lisa Wangler 2-2-6, Mckenna Jordan 8-2-18, Helaina Limas 7-3-20, Cameron Tripp 1-0-2, Jenna Oliver 1-1-3, Maddie Boltz 1-0-3, Lexi Rhoads 0-0-0, Elizabeth Cooper 0-0-0, Meagan Scheck 0-0-0, Bailey Freeland 0-0-0, McKenna Fast 0-0-0, Brenna Holliday 1-0-2, Gabby Roll 0-0-0. TOTALS: 22-11-59.
3-point goals — Dial, Limas 3, Boltz. Rebounds — Streetsboro 39 (Neff 13, Rice 11), Cloverleaf 35 (Jordan 15, Wangler 10). Assists — Streetsboro 5 (Dial 2), Cloverleaf 13 (Limas 4). Records — Streetsboro (9-13, 8-6), Cloverleaf (20-2, 14-1). Junior varsity — Cloverleaf 41, Streetsboro 37 (OT).