Perrysburg senior Erin Mesker averaged 10.7 points and 7.0 rebounds per game this season.
The Perrysburg girls basketball team is playing the role of Cinderella in the 2010 postseason despite entering the playoffs as defending district champions.
Last year, the Yellow Jackets set a school record for most wins (24) and reached the Division I regional finals. But first-year coach Todd Sims lost four starters to graduation, and no one in the program thought another deep playoff run was in the cards.
“There is not much pressure on us,” Sims said. “To be honest, I'm surprised. This is unexpected. The girls don't seem like [their under pressure].”
The young Yellow Jackets (17-6) upset undefeated Marion Harding 36-27 Saturday to win the DI district title at the University of Findlay. Marion Harding (23-1) came into the game as the No. 3 team in the state against unranked Perrysburg.
“It's one of the greatest things,” said senior Erin Mesker, who is the only returning starter. “This was so unexpected. It was awesome. We felt an urge of excitement. We wanted to move on.”
Sophomore Kelsea Newman scored a team-high 12 points, including seven in the fourth quarter. Junior Alyssa Goins tallied eight points, and Mesker added seven.
The Yellow Jacket defense limited Marion Harding's Shawnta Dyer, who will play at Louisville, to 14 points.
With the upset, Perrysburg advanced to the regional semifinal at 8 tonight at Norwalk against Brecksville-Broadview Heights (19-5). The Bees beat Rocky River Magnificat 48-44 last Saturday.
“It helps a lot because the pressure is not on us,” Mesker said. “We just play our own game and relax.”
Mesker finished the regular season ranked ninth in the Northern Lakes League in scoring with 10.7 points per game. Mesker also averaged 7.0 rebounds per game, which was fifth best in the league.
Newman averaged 10.2 points per game in the regular season. Junior Nicole Delas ranked seventh in the league in rebounding with 5.9 boards per contest.
Newman played varsity as a freshman.
“Now she's a starter and we lean on her,” Sims said.
Perrysburg had captured back-to-back NLL championships the past two seasons, including a perfect 14-0 record last year.
But Northview won its first NLL title since the 2004-05 season.
The Yellow Jackets finished with a 10-4 mark in league play, finishing third behind Northview (13-1) and Southview (12-2).
Sims said playing in the ultra-competitive league helps a lot in the playoffs.
“There is such good coaching in the NLL and there are so many different presses and defenses,” Sims said. “It prepares us for the tournament. There's not anything they are not prepared for.”
“It helps prepare for the physical teams out there,” Mesker agreed.
Sims said after losing four starters, he was more worried about how his players would accept roles and how they would gel.
“One of our biggest advantages is that we just play,” Sims said. “We don't harp on what the other team does. We do what we do. We have a certain system and we just tweak it. Sometimes it's faster and sometimes it's slower.”
While Perrysburg returns to the regional, it is the first regional game for Brecksville-Broadview Heights since 1996.
“I think it helps that we were there last year,” said Sims, who was an assistant at Perrysburg for 20 years under coach Mark Schrock. “They came and watched the game and a few played in the game.”
Sims said tonight's opponent has a similar style with two post players and three guards.
“Our game plan is like every game. We want to handle pressure, limit turnovers and play very good defense and outrebound teams,” Sims said.
Guard Courtney Clark, who is one of only two seniors on the Bees' roster, is joined by junior Leah Haught in the back court.
Mesker said the Yellow Jackets' playoff experience should help in the long run.
“I know how to play in the tournament,” Mesker said. “The play is so much more physical. You're playing for your life and you don't want to die. The key is to just play our game and play hearts out.”
Contact Mark Monroe at:firstname.lastname@example.org 419-724-6354.