COLUMBUS - Central Catholic's tournament trail ended abruptly last night in a 56-36 loss to fifth-ranked Dayton Chaminade-Julienne in the Division I girls state basketball semifinals at Value City Arena.
Led by All-Ohio junior point guard Megan Duffy, the Eagles smothered the Irish early on, mounted a big lead, and cruised to victory. Duffy had 24 points, nine assists, and most importantly took away the sting of Central's vaunted pressure defense.
Chaminade-Julienne (25-2) plays top-ranked Beavercreek (27-0) in tonight's 8:30 Division I championship game.
Beavercreek, which defeated sixth-ranked Cleveland East Tech (23-3) 48-31 in last night's other semifinal, won 47-31 in the regular season against C-J.
“Their halfcourt defense was very solid and they took our offensive gameplan away,” Irish coach Steve Pfahler said. “We struggled, and I think our inexperience caught up with us when we got down early.
“The kids never gave up, but it was an adjustment we just couldn't get into.”
With sophomore forward Brandie Hoskins scoring seven of their first 11 points, the Eagles took an 11-2 lead just 3:23 into the game on Duffy's steal and lay-up.
The edge grew to 19-4 on two Duffy free throws late in the first quarter.
“I think we were pretty prepared coming into the game,” said Duffy of C-J's six-on-five practice sessions this week.
“We were expecting the trap and we had people in the right place at the right time getting open. We got some easy baskets off their trap.”
Hoskins contributed 18 points and four rebounds for C-J, which was 22 of 46 (48 percent) from the field, 9 of 11 from the line and out-rebounded the Irish 24-21.
Central Catholic was 18 of 39 (46 percnet) from the field, missed its one free throw attempt, and committed 22 turnovers to the Eagles' 12.
“Steve's thing is to try and cause turnovers and our thing is to not have turnovers,” Eagles coach Frank Goldsberry said. “We did a good job there and our half-court defense was excellent tonight.”
Central (24-3), which was paced by senior forward Brigid Wernert's 10 points and eight from sophomore center Nicole Brown, trailed 27-8 midway through the second quarter and could get no closer than 14 points from there.
Ahead 29-14 at halftime, the Eagles opened the third quarter with a 9-4 run and led by as much as 20 before Irish sophomore Corri Helldobler sandwiched two baskets around one from Wernert pull Central within 40-26 with 1:32 left in the quarter.
But a 3-pointer from Jenny Beane and a bucket plus two free throws from Duffy to close that period ended any hope of an Irish comeback. Duffy was 9 of 16 from the field, Hoskins 8 of 12.
“I don't think we were out of it right off the bat because we've come back before,” Wernert said. “But our shots weren't falling and our defense wasn't the best it could be.
“If we could do it over again now I think we would try to come out a lot harder at the beginning.”
Duffy, who has committed to Notre Dame, managed to fatigue Central's usually inexhaustible guard personnel.
“Young lady, you're just as good as advertised,” Pfahler told Duffy in the media room afterward, impressed with the way she beat his team's attempts at a full-court trap.
“She just wore us out,” Pfahler said. “It was the first time in three years I can remember a guard who wore us out defensively.
“She played with great poise, she made all the right decisions, and she hit her jump shots. What more can you ask from a kid?”