TONTOGANY - Perrysburg grabbed the momentum of last night's Division I district semifinal with Northern Lakes League rival and co-league champion Anthony Wayne long before the two mixed it up for the third time this season.
The Yellow Jackets' victory over the Generals on AW's home court in mid-January seemed to have a carryover effect in the rubber match between the NLL's co-champions.
Perrysburg took charge early and leaned on Nicole Parrish throughout to defeat AW 49-41 before a passionate crowd on hand at Otsego.
"It's always been a battle with Anthony Wayne and it's always a great game," said Perrysburg coach Mark Schrock, of the NLL rivalry.
The Yellow Jackets' longtime coach said his team seemed ready to face their No. 1 league rival days before the game. He said they practiced with a level of confidence he didn't see even before the January meeting Perrysburg won 45-40 to pull into a tie for first place in the NLL.
"We really thought we could win," Schrock said. "I thought we went into the last game hoping we could win. We went into this game thinking we could win."
Parrish poured in 14 of her game-high 20 points in the first half against an AW team that found itself trailing the Yellow Jackets after a slow start in the opening quarter.
"It was definitely important for us to get ahead," said Parrish, referring to the Yellow Jackets taking a 14-8 lead into the second quarter. "We got that cushion and it helped us a lot."
As for the victory, which places the Yellow Jackets in a D-I District final against the Marion Harding-Mansfield Senior winner on Saturday at the University of Findlay, Parrish recognized it as more than just beating the Generals to move on to the next round of the tournament.
"It feels great," Parrish said. "It feels like the league tiebreaker."
Demi Moschetti helped Perrysburg's cause by finishing with eight points.
The Yellow Jackets made it their mission to attack AW's Allison Papenfuss on both ends of the court. Papenfuss, a six-foot junior who recently gave a verbal commitment to Bowling Green State University, was not allowed much room to roam the floor freely all night.
Defensively, Schrock assigned Megan Jones, a 5-10 junior, to shadow the NLL's leading scorer and rebounder practically whenever AW had possession of the basketball.
Papenfuss paced the Generals with a team-high 16 points and 12 rebounds, but she was only 7-for-21 from the field and was limited to only a basket in the final quarter.
Erika Schmidt scored eight of her 12 points in the second half for AW.
Parrish complimented Jones for her defensive work on AW's top scoring threat.
"Megan did a great job on defense," Parrish said. "She did a great job on Papenfuss."
Offensively, Schrock wanted to make Papenfuss expend a little more energy playing defense than in the two previous meetings. So, the Yellow Jackets' offensive strategy included working the ball into the player Papenfuss guarded, which was Erin Mesker, a 5-10 sophomore who responded by scoring nine points - all after halftime.
Mesker scored eight of Perrysburg's 10 points in the third quarter to help the Yellow Jackets maintain the lead heading into the final period. Her three baskets near the rim and a pair of free throws allowed the Yellow Jackets to finish the quarter leading 38-33.
"I just really wanted to play hard and help the team," Mesker said "We really like to play them a lot. We really get pumped up for them."
Perrysburg led by at least six points throughout the fourth quarter.
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