MILLBURY — Port Clinton hung around with the City League champion Rogers Rams for one quarter of Saturday night’s Division II girls district basketball final at Lake.
Then the sixth-ranked Rams found a few gears the Redskins did not possess, rolling to a 68-40 win to advance to regionals for the second straight year.
Awaiting Rogers (23-3) in Tuesday’s 6:15 regional semifinal at Ohio Northern University in Ada is the Rams’ nemesis for two seasons, Lima Bath (20-5), which edged Celina 39-38 in a district final Saturday night at Paulding.
Bath slipped past Rogers 46-44 in a 2011 district final, and edged tthe team 63-59 in the regional semifinals last year at ONU en route to reaching the D-II state semis.
Rogers’ lightning-quick 5-foot-2 point guard, senior Cha’Ron Sweeney, and junior guard Sasha Dailey are among the Rams gearing up for another shot at Bath.
Saturday the duo paced Rogers with 24 and 22 points, respectively, as the Rams used a trademark mix of pressure defense and transition offense to end the best girls basketball season in Port Clinton history. “We put some pressure on them tonight,” Rogers coach Lamar Smith said. “Give Port Clinton credit. They played hard. But our girls came out really focused tonight, and they were really ready to play.
“Sasha was working hard all week in practice on attacking the basket. Her and Cha’Ron stepped up really big tonight. I’m not surprised. This is the time of the year where you’ve got to step up.”
The Redskins (21-4), playing in their first district final, kept pace early on. They held their last lead of the game at 8-7 until Sweeney drove the right baseline for a bucket to put Rogers ahead for good with 1 minute, 6 seconds left in the first quarter. Dailey added a driving layup with 39 seconds left in that period as Rogers entered the second quarter up just 11-8.
For Port Clinton, which committed 14 of 24 turnovers in the opening half, that was the beginning of the end, as the Rams launched a game-breaking 29-6 run.
“We don’t like giving teams too much confidence,” Sweeney said. “We want to get their game out of control, and pump the score up. I had to figure things out early, and when I did, I was ready to go. And, I had my team behind me. The mission is to get to the state semifinals, and we’re just taking it one game at a time.”
That surge was capped when 6-2 junior forward Marquelle Williams (six points, five rebounds) converted a fast-break layup off a Rams steal to give Rogers a 33-14 lead 2:46 before halftime.
That 29-6 stretch took place in a span of just under 8 minutes.
Rogers took a 36-17 lead to halftime, then hit yet another higher gear in starting the third quarter with a 14-4 spurt to take a 50-21 lead on Dailey’s transition layup at the 4:29 mark of the third.
“Basically, they let us get into their heads, and we took over from there,” Dailey said. “It means a lot getting back [to regionals].
“This year we want to win it. We’re playing way better than we were early in the season, and we have good team chemistry. We’ve got a lot of heart and we don’t want to lose, so we go hard every game.”
Up 55-32 after three periods, Smith had the Rams use a part of the last quarter working on their delay game, taking shots only when breaking down the defense.
Port Clinton got as close as 19 points (57-38) on a 3-point play from junior forward Hope Thorbahn (14 points) with 5:41 left, but late turnovers by the Redskins let the Rams close the game with a 10-2 run. “They score points in bunches and we knew that,” Port Clinton coach Toby Bickel said. “We turned it over too many times and, when you do that, they make you pay.
“They made us pay, and we didn’t have an answer for Cha’Ron. She’s such a good player out front, and we didn’t have anybody who could keep her down.”
Rogers was 29-of-50 (58 percent) from the field, and 7-of-13 at the line in the game. Port Clinton was 15-of-35 (43 percent) from the field, and 9-of-13 from the line. Junior forward Tiffany Colston added 10 points and 6 rebounds for the Redskins.
Tuesday’s Rogers-Lima Bath winner could meet top-ranked Clyde (25-0) in Friday’s 7:30 p.m. regional final at Ontario High School, if the Fliers get past Norton in Tuesday’s semifinal there. Bath topped Clyde 51-36 in last year’s regional final.
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