In their first two games of the Division I tournament, the Avon Lake Shoregals had rallied to pull off narrow wins against Elyria and Avon.
Facing top-seeded Magnificat proved to be another story.
The Blue Streaks jumped out to an 11-0 lead and never looked back on their way to a convincing 64-30 win over the Shoregals Wednesday night in a district semifinal game at Elyria Catholic.
“Magnificat is a good team. We came out and played a little bit better in the second half, but we just didn’t handle the ball well,” said Avon Lake head coach Dave Zvara, as his team turned the ball over 29 times overall.
“We won the Avon game in part because we only had 19 turnovers and they had 30,” Zvara said. “We need to keep working on our ball skills for next year. Magnificat does a nice job of playing the passing lanes when they trap you, and that’s what they did tonight.
“That hurt us, without a doubt. They got a lot of easy scores from that,” he added.
The Blue Streaks took advantage of 12 Shoregal turnovers in the first quarter alone to build an 18-3 lead in the first eight minutes of play. A Stephanie Haas fast break hoop off a steal made it 6-0, and three-straight 3-pointers from Megan Barilla, Haas and Paige Wise closed out the quarter.
Barilla’s trey made it 11-0. Lacy LeDuc got Avon Lake on the board with a pair of free throws with 2:51 left in the quarter. But Magnificat was off and running on a stretch of scores that would all but decide the game.
The Haas and Wise 3-pointers started a 14-0 run that extended into the second quarter. A pair of Haas scores inside, sandwiched around a drive for two by Wise, had the Blue Streaks up, 24-3, forcing Zvara to call his second timeout. A score inside by Maddie Barry pushed the Shoregal deficit to 23.
Avon Lake scored its first basket of the game with 5:59 left in the half on a jumper by sophomore Logan LeDuc. That got Avon Lake on an 11-4 run to close out the half, but Magnificat still had a substantial lead at 30-14 by halftime.
A decisive 21-7 run to open the second half put the game away for the Streaks. Nine points from Haas and six points from Barry. along with another trey from Wise, proved too much for Avon Lake to overcome.
“One of our first goals tonight was to set the tone and tempo,” said Magnificat head coach Meghann Hubach, whose team moved to 18-4 on the season.
“We try to do that with our press and get some easy baskets,” Hubach said. “I thought we were able to do that at the beginning of the game as well as the start of the second half. It takes the pressure off of us and puts it on them.”
Hubach was also thankful to have Barilla return to the lineup. The senior point guard was back after missing the sectional final win over North Olmsted due to an injury.
“It’s nice to have Megan back out there,” Hubach said. “It’s nice for our piece of mind. She’s been around for four years, and having her out there allows everybody to play their position and not have to do something extra. It’s a big positive to have her back.”
With the win, the Blue Streaks find themselves in a district final for the third year in a row. In the previous two years out in the Parma district, the Streaks were denied a chance at a regional berth by Midpark.
Now it’s Westlake that stands in the Blue Streaks’ path.
“I feel like this is where we’re supposed to be,” Hubach said. “The kids are ready, and we’re excited to play Westlake. We know it’s going to be a battle possession after possession.
“And even though the two schools are so close distance-wise, we’ve not played each other in years. It’ll be an interesting game from that standpoint,” she added.
Haas led all scorers with 25 points, while Wise was right behind with 15, including three treys. Lacy LeDuc, who reached the 1,000-point plateau this season, closed out her high school career with 14 points and eight rebounds.
“I just told the girls they have nothing to be ashamed of,” said Zvara, whose team closes out its season at 12-11.
“I told our seniors that I was thankful for getting this job and that I had the chance to coach them,” Zvara said. “They’re a great bunch of kids. Lacy is a coaches dream. She’s a very coachable girls who plays hard. I respect her a lot, and I wish she was coming back.
“We got the program back where we want it to be. We’ve got some respect now. Even though we lost today, we finished things out on a positive note with two wins in the tournament.
“Hey, there are only four teams that end the season with a win, and those are the four state champions,” he added.