With its veteran star saddled with foul trouble throughout Saturday night's Division I girls district basketball championship game, Start's youth rose to the occasion and stole the show in a 65-50 victory over Waite at Perrysburg.
Freshman Jaymie Jackson scored 11 of her 16 points in the second quarter, and sophomore Maleeka Kynard notched 11 of her game-high 21 in the fourth as the City League champion Spartans (19-3) advanced to Tuesday's regionals.
"Luckily, we took their best punch a couple times and ended up making some plays ourselves," Start coach Bob Brown said. "This was our main goal. The City championship was awesome, but being a district champ is a great thing for these kids. They had never done it before, and I'm excited for them."
Start will face Westlake (22-2) in the 8 p.m. semifinal at Norwalk following the 6:15 semi between Northern Lakes League champion Perrysburg (23-0) and Solon (19-4). The CL and district titles are each firsts for the Spartan girls.
Start's 6-1 senior post player and leader Yolanda Richardson started out gangbusters, scoring eight points, grabbing six rebounds, and blocking four shots in the first quarter before drawing her second foul with 1:49 left in that period and going to the bench for the rest of the half.
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Instead of reeling, however, the Spartans, who also sat 6-3 sophomore forward Azia Bishop after her second foul 3:36 before halftime, actually expanded their 13-9 first-quarter lead to 30-25 at halftime.
With Richardson (13 points, six rebounds) and Bishop (seven points, four rebounds) seated for most of it, Waite's 6-3 junior star Natasha Howard scored 12 of her team-high 14 points in that second period.
But Jackson offset that Indians surge. She started her 11-point
period with a 3-pointer at 6:05 and closed the half with a steal and
layup with seven seconds to go.
"Some of our important players were in foul trouble and somebody had to pick the team up, and I just had to do it," Jackson said. "The team pulled it together."
The Spartans appeared set to pull away when they opened the third quarter with a 9-0 run, taking a 39-25 lead on Richardson's inside bucket at the 6:16 mark.
But Richardson was hit with her fourth foul with 1:28 left in the third, and Bishop drew her fourth just 40 seconds later.
This enabled Waite (16-7) to chop a 50-36 third-quarter deficit down to 51-44 on a free throw from Amanda Gregory (10 points, eight rebounds) with 4:46 remaining in the game.
It was then that Kynard took over with three steals and six points in a span of 23 seconds to end Waite's chances of a comeback.
"My offense wasn't really there tonight," Kynard said, "so I knew if I brought my defense the offense would come, especially with our bigs out. I had to make up for that."
Kynard netted two free throws at 4:08, then scored two layups off steals at 3:59 and 3:45 for a 57-44 lead.
"It was guard play," Waite coach Manny May said of the difference in the game. "We had unforced turnovers. They didn't do anything great [defensively] against us. We tried too hard to get the ball into Natasha, and that cost us throwing the ball away."
Start was 22-of-44 from the field, 19-of-25 from the line, outrebounded Waite 33-29, and forced 25 turnovers while committing 22.
The Indians, who also got 10 points from Stephanie Keaton, were 17-of-49 from the field and 13-of-20 from the line.
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