ELYRIA — The chance was there to send the game into overtime Thursday, but the defense, as it had been all game, for second-seeded Bay did just enough to beat top-seeded Cloverleaf 27-25 in the Elyria Division II District final.
The Rockets (17-8) return to the regional level for the first time since 2006 and they got there by beating the Colts (22-3) at their own game.
For the better part of 24 games, Cloverleaf relied on solid defense and tremendous rebounding in a season of dreams.
As Mckenna Jordan’s shot at the buzzer fell helplessly off the rim into the hands of Bay reserve Barbara Aldridge, the Rockets exploded.
“The biggest thing we wanted to do was pack it in and make them beat us from the outside,” Bay coach Brian Hill said. “That was our hope. They rebound so well and they’re so good at the offensive boards. We knew they could drive through. I’m just really proud of our girls. They executed the game plan flawlessly.”
The plan was to keep Lisa Wangler, who was coming off an 18-point, 25-rebound game, and Jordan, who went for 11 and 12 against Holy Name, out of the mix.
While Cloverleaf was still able to get 15 offensive rebounds, it only had 25 total boards.
Jordan finished with seven points and six rebounds. Wangler had seven rebounds but was held out of the scoring column.
That’s well short of the 39.4 boards the Colts averaged coming in and the 21.1 the two averaged per contest.
“They definitely packed it in,” Jordan said. “It kept us from getting it into the middle. It forced us to shoot more, which we really haven’t done much this year. It was similar to playing a Norton defense.”
Playing mostly zone defense, the Rockets held Cloverleaf without a basket the last 5:23 of regulation.
The Colts shot 8-for-43 from the floor (.185) and 4-for-20 (.200) from the 3-point line.
“We knew we had to box out,” said Bay center Maeve Johnston, who finished with a game-high nine rebounds. “We made it so that we had our strongest rebounders on their backside. We arranged it so that they shot from the outside a lot.
“We worked on it constantly in practice. We worked so hard against their look to make sure we were ready for a physical team like them.”
Bay, which will play defending D-III state champion Gilmour Academy on Tuesday, also made sure Helaina Limas wasn’t going to beat the Rockets.
Defending the quick transition and keeping someone in the senior’s face, they limited the damage.
Limas, who averages 46.2 percent from the floor and 32.8 percent from behind the arc, went 2-for-15 (.133) and didn’t make a 3-pointer in eight attempts against the Rockets.
The senior finished with a season-low five points. She came into the game averaging 21.6.
Aside from Cameron Tripp, who was 3-for-5 from behind the arc, the rest of the Colts were 1-for-15.
Cloverleaf never scored more than nine points in any quarter and were held to five points twice.
“They knew that we weren’t the best shooting team from the outside,” Cloverleaf coach John Carmigiano said. “I thought that was a good defensive choice on their part. They were just packed in way more than I would have ever guessed anybody would be.
“There was no way that we were going to enter the ball inside. We needed some people to step up and make some shots. I thought Cam at least gave us a little bit of breathing room throughout the game.”
Contact Brad Bournival at email@example.com.