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Published: Friday, 3/9/2007

Ottoville is overpowering; Stryker advances to final

BY RYAN AUTULLO
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

ELIDA - The Ottoville girls, ranked 10th in the final regular-season Associated Press basketball poll, crushed Liberty Center 56-20 last night in a Division IV regional semifinal at Elida High.

It got so bad that with 5:17 remaining in the third quarter, the Ottoville student section erupted, mockingly, after Liberty Center scored a field goal - its first in about 15 game minutes.

"We didn't expect to win like that," Ottoville coach Dave Kleman said. "I can't envision us playing much better than we did tonight."

The Green (20-4) will meet Stryker in a regional final Saturday.

Ottoville dominated in about every way possible.

A relentless press helped force 28 turnovers and often prevented the Tigers (18-6) from crossing half court.

It began with superb senior guards Courtney Schimmoeller and Erica Vorst, but 6-foot post Gina Beining was equally as disruptive.

"We worked a lot on their pressure, but I don't think we really knew how much it would be," said Cassi Elling, who led Liberty Center with eight points. "I don't think we were prepared enough for what their pressure was going to be tonight."

It's worth debating whether Schimmoeller hurt the Tigers more on offense, where she knocked down four 3-pointers and scored a game-high 16 points, or defensively, where she was a nuisance to anyone she guarded.

When the Tigers began guarding Schimmoeller more closely, she remained effective by creating shots for her teammates.

"We get out and go right away. We don't let them get a chance to start the game," Schimmoeller said. "That's our game, that's the way we like it."

And how about preventing the Tigers from cracking double digits until midway through the third quarter?

"If you give up, you never know if they're going to come back," said Vorst, who had 11 points and six assists. "You just have to keep at it and show no mercy."

When Ottoville wanted to run, Liberty Center could not keep up. When the Green chose to battle down low, the Tigers didn't have the height or girth to challenge.

One team played nearly flawless basketball while the other didn't resemble a team that defeated third-ranked Ottawa Hills 50-38 in the district final.

Perhaps Liberty Center will find solace in that win over Ottawa Hills, which eliminated the Tigers from the tournament last year.

"We've had some great wins and we also had some bad losses," Liberty Center coach Todd Burdue said. "If you would have asked me at the beginning of the year if we'd win 18 games, I'd probably say no."

In the second game last night, Stryker handed second-ranked Hopewell-Loudon its first loss of the season, 51-29.

The Panthers (22-2) led 26-7 at halftime, holding the Chieftains (24-1) to just 3-of-19 shooting from the field in the first half.

"Our defensive pressure tonight was very, very good," Stryker coach Steve Brown said.

Chelsea Henry led Stryker with 13 points. Kasey Hageman and Brooke Hancock added 11 and 10 points, respectively.

The Panthers were 9-of-17 from the field in the first half and built a 13-5 lead entering the second quarter.

"Had they not made so many [shots] and got a little bit of a lead, I would have been content to just stand out here and run our offense and let them play defense all day long," Hopewell-Loudon coach Jeff Ritzler said.

The Chieftains were led by Courtney Ritzler's 16 points. No one else scored more than five points.

Contact Ryan Autullo at:

rautullo@theblade.com.



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