NORWALK - As long as there's a dance going on, the Perrysburg Yellow Jackets girls basketball team figures it might as well just keep moving its feet.
The surprise of the Division I tournament thus far, the unranked and unheralded Jackets (18-6) reached their second straight regional final last night, grabbing an early lead and holding on for a 44-36 victory over Brecksville-Broadview Heights at Norwalk High School.
Junior forward Nicole Delas led the way with 16 points and 13 rebounds, and the Yellow Jackets also got 14 points and five boards from Erin Mesker.
"The key for us was to stay calm and keep working hard," Delas said. "We didn't want to keep turning the ball over. Defense was a big factor because we stopped them from scoring and we created turnovers.
"We're really excited to make it back to the regional finals. We didn't think that was possible because we lost four starters from last year. But we worked hard and we wanted to win and get there, and we did."
Perrysburg, which last Saturday knocked off third-ranked and previously unbeaten Marion Harding in a district final, will face another Ohio powerhouse from closer to home - the City League champion Waite Indians (22-2), who were ranked No. 6 in the final state poll.
The regional final is 1p.m. Saturday here.
The Jackets of first-year head coach Todd Sims, who spent the prior 20 years as an assistant, were a reasonable pick to make it this far last year when their veteran team ended at 24-1.
But with Mesker, a senior forward, as the only starter back, making this regional final is more than a pleasant surprise.
The Bees (18-6) took their last lead at 4-2 on Beckie Famurewa's lay-up with 4:44 left in the first quarter.
Perrysburg answered with five free throws from Delas over the next 1:36, and sophomore guard Kelsea Newman's 3-pointer gave the Jackets a 10-4 lead with 1:07 left in the first quarter.
"Nicole played very well," Sims said. "She's a banger on the boards, and if she can get to the line, she's very good."
The Jackets would never relinquish the lead.
"Especially in big games, it's nice to get a lead," Sims said. "In games like this there's a little more tension than normal, and when you can get ahead you can sort of relax.
"We got up early and we maintained the lead. That was a good win."
The Yellow Jackets, who led by as much as 13 in the second quarter, took a 22-12 lead to halftime.
The Bees, who were paced by 16 points from junior guard Leah Haught, staged a mini-run in the third quarter, getting as close as 25-23 on an Andrea Cargill free throw with 44.5 seconds left in that period.
But Perrysburg began closing the deal early in the fourth, continuing on a pivotal 10-0 run that broke things open and netted a 35-23 lead with 4:50 to play.
"Inside out, that's how we play," Sims said of the winning offensive formula. "We got the ball inside some and we got one of their post players in foul trouble, and that helped us in the first half. That's how we got it done."
But there was a more important element in the win, according to Sims.
"Defense has always been our thing," he said. "That's where we start. We talk about defense, not turning the ball over, and controlling the boards. Those are our three things. So far, so good, I guess."
Perrysburg was 11-of-32 from the field, 20-of-28 from the line, and outrebounded the Bees 30-19. Brecksville-Broadview Heights was 14-of-38 from the field and 5-of-6 from the line.
"We deserve to be here. They told us who we were going to play. We showed up and played those teams. Now we play Waite, and we're going to show up Saturday and do the best we can."