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.
Start freshman Jaymie Jackson drives to the basket against Waite's Natasha Howard. Jackson scored 16 points as the Spartans advanced to Tuesday's regionals.
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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