PARMA HTS. — The Medina girls basketball program needs one victory to scratch a 26-year itch.
It was ugly for a half, but the top-seeded Bees used great man-to-man defense and equally impressive free throw shooting to defeat fourth-seeded Magnificat 64-50 Monday evening in a Valley Forge Division I District semifinal.
Medina (22-2), which hasn’t reached the regional level since 1993, will play third-seeded St. Joseph Academy, a 46-37 winner over No. 2 Berea-Midpark, for the district championship Thursday at 7 p.m.
“It’s something we’ve been working toward going back to last year,” said 6-foot-3 Duquesne recruit Lindsey Linard, who had 11 points, 12 rebounds and three blocks. “We’ve had that on our mind since we came back to work on June 1. To be this close is awesome, but we still have work to do.”
The Bees, who led 19-16 at halftime despite shooting 7-for-35 from the field, put in plenty of work against the Blue Streaks (9-15), whose misleading record includes losses to Canton McKinley, Archbishop Hoban, Wadsworth, Berlin Hiland, North Canton Hoover, St. Vincent-St. Mary, Stow and St. Joseph.
Frequently forcing turnovers by applying pressure even after Magnificat had secured a defensive rebound, Medina put up 25 points in the third period, when it went 8-for-15 from the field and 8-for-10 at the line. The Bees added 20 more points in the fourth period while finishing the second half 11-for-23 from the floor and 20-for-26 at the stripe.
“We came out really hard,” said 6-2 sophomore forward Sarah McKee, who had a game-high 18 points and eight boards. “We worked well together and hit more shots. We never gave up. Even if they made a run, we’d always come back.”
The Bees led 19-12 late in the second period, but Magnificat, which shot 6-for-26 from the field in the first half and 18-for-53 (.340) for the game, scored four points in the final 17 seconds and suddenly trailed by just three at intermission.
The Blue Streaks, who opened the game by face-guarding Madison Luthy (6 points on 2-for-9 shooting) before switching to conventional man-to-man midway through the first quarter, got as close as one early in the third period, but Linard scored inside, McKee hit a three and Luthy drove for a hoop to put Medina back up by eight.
Magnificat made one last push and was down just two with 4:03 to play in the third, but the Bees went on a 10-0 run to take control for good.
Sophomore Elizabeth Stuart, who missed five straight shots after entering the game midway through the first quarter, had seven points in the pivotal third period and 11 of her 14 in the second half. Backup point guard Katie Neate also came up big, scoring the final four points in Medina’s 10-0 run while finishing with six points and three assists.
“I started driving more,” said Stuart, who added four rebounds and made 8-of-9 free throws. “I knew my shot wasn’t falling, so I started attacking. They kept fouling me and sending me to the free throw line.”
Magnificat, which got 10 points and four boards from Clare Chambers, nine points, four rebounds and seven assists from reserve Mollie Laspisa and six points and five rebounds from freshman center Cameron Jones, played hard throughout, but didn’t have the size or scoring power to offset tons of costly turnovers.
“We always say the defense starts our offense,” Linard said. “Defense is something you can control. We got a lot of steals and did a good job of capitalizing on their mistakes.
“In the first half, we were nervous. We had beginning-game jitters, but we kept working hard. We ended up having a real good second half.”
The next task for the Bees is getting to regionals for the first time since current coach Karen Kase was a sophomore point guard 26 years ago.
“It’s been a goal all season,” Kase said. “The girls are hungry. We found our mojo over the last week. We didn’t close out the regular season well (with two losses in the last three games), but the kids have really come together.”
Medina 64, Magnificat 50
Valley Forge Division I District Semifinal
MAGNIFICAT 8 8 15 19 — 50
MEDINA 12 7 25 20 — 64
Magnificat — Brenna Varga 2-2-7, Clare Chambers 4-0-10, Cameron Jones 3-0-6, Allish Chambers 1-4-6, Mary Spear 1-0-2, Millie Laspisa 3-2-9, Isabel Comer 2-2-6, Maura Robinson 1-0-2, Marla Ellis 1-0-2, Maeve Spicer 0-0-0, Maddie Norman 0-0-0, Lauren West 0-0-0. TOTALS: 18-10-50.
Medina — Abby McMullen 1-1-3, Sarah McKee 5-5-18, Lindsey Linard 4-3-11, Madison Luthy 2-2-6, Alexa Nau 2-1-6, Katie Neate 1-4-6, Elizabeth Stuart 3-8-14, Rowan McDonald 0-0-0, Olivia Bowser 0-0-0, Erin Wojciak 0-0-0, Mia Buzzelli 0-0-0, Hailey Seguin 0-0-0. TOTALS: 18-24-64.
3-point goals — C. Chambers 2, Laspisa, Varga, McKee 3, Nau. Rebounds — Magnificat 28 (Jones 5), Medina 33 (Linard 12). Assists — Magnificat 10 (Laspisa 7), Medina 9 (Nau, Neate 3). Records — Magnificat (9-15), Medina (22-2).