The victory was decisive enough, but a couple of questions will hang over it for some time to come.
The Panthers won in part by limiting Ashley Montgomery, Ridgeville’s career scoring leader, to 19 points, 11 below her area-best 30-point average. But Montgomery did not start, sitting out the first quarter for disciplinary reasons.
The first question: If she had played the full 32 minutes, might the outcome have been different? The second: If she had played four quarters, might she have scored her average 30 points?
No one will ever know for certain, but if you do the math you’ll see she averaged 6.3 points per quarter. Over four quarters that’s still below average at 25.2 points. But who’s to say she’d have done it?
So let the questions linger and understand the Panthers did an effective job on Montgomery mainly with a box-and-one defense. This had one player going one-on-one with Montgomery, the other four playing zone, so that wherever she went with the ball, chances are she had two defenders on her.
“The plan going in was to have at least one defender on her at all times,” said EC point guard Danielle LoParo, a key figure in the effort. “(At times) we were able to double-team her and hold her back somewhat. This past week’s practices have been working on a defense to stop her.”
Panthers coach Eric Rothgery said the plan was to contain Montgomery.
“We had a goal to try to stay between her and the basket, try to get the ball and get No. 32 (Ridgeville’s Brionna Rich) into foul trouble,” he said. “We did get Rich into foul trouble and Montgomery didn’t get her points. We don’t need her scoring 35 or 40 points and she’s capable of that.”
EC (5-2, 3-1 WSC) also did it with a strong job at both ends by Karissa McGrath, its 5-foot-9 junior post, who held her own on the backboards against the Rangers’ 5-11 Bella Pecchia, 5-9 Cortney Judson and 5-8 Rich. And McGrath scored a team-high 19 points, 10 in the fourth quarter.
McGrath said it was tough under the boards.
“Coming in, we knew No. 32 (Rich) was a big rebounder and I had to box her out because they do have height under there,” she said. “She was probably the strongest player on the team and I had to play her hard. We all had to box out, jump and do our best, and if we had to foul, we had to foul.”
With Montgomery on the bench, the Rangers (3-2, 2-1) fell behind 12-7 after a quarter. When she took the floor to start the second period, she hit back-to-back 3-pointers less than 30 seconds apart. But even so, the Panthers increased their lead to 26-18 at the break.
Part of the reason for that was Brittney McNamara, EC’s 5-9 junior shooting guard, drilled two threes of her own on the way to a 14-point outing. McNamara added a third 3-pointer in the fourth quarter.
McNamara said a key to the win was execution.
“For us, the toughest part of any game is executing our offenses,” she said. “(Assistant coach Joe Schill) always gets on us about ‘execution, execution, execution.’ We actually ran plays like he told us to, and it came out big for us. That helped us out a lot.”
North Ridgeville got close twice, cutting the lead to 28-27 midway through the third quarter and to 37-36 with nearly six minutes left in the game. Still, the Panthers inched away to a 32-27 lead going into the fourth quarter.
And they answered the Rangers’ final challenge with a 10-0 run in which McGrath scored six points and senior Brigid Griffin added the icing with two fast-break layups off EC steals. By the time their rush was over, the Panthers held a 47-36 lead with barely three minutes to go.
Montgomery was the only North Ridgeville player to score in double figures, although the Rangers got nine points from Pecchia, including six in the fourth quarter, and eight from Rich, who got into foul trouble early, picked up her fourth just after halftime and sat out chunks of the third and fourth quarter.
She eventually fouled out, as did the Panthers’ Griffin.
Griffin and junior Shannon Hopkins each scored eight points and LoParo, the dynamo defender and press-breaker, scored six.
“All around, we didn’t really play well,” North Ridgeville coach Amy Esser said. “One player who came to play was Emily Daveant, and I thought she played well. Her effort was there. But we didn’t come ready to play. It was like we were asleep the whole game.”
Contact Bob Daniels at 329-7135 or email@example.com.
Elyria Catholic 57, North Ridgeville 46
NORTH RIDGEVILLE (57): Ashley Montgomery 7-3-19, Alyssa Riley 1-0-2, Emily Daveant 1-0-2, Bella Pecchia 2-5-9, Jordan Butcher 0-0-0, Brionna Rich 3-0-8, Cortney Judson 1-1-3, Leah Lindak 1-1-3, Katie Butcher 0-0-0. Totals 22-9-58.
ELYRIA CATHOLIC (57): Danielle LoParo 3-0-6, Brittney McNamara 5-1-14, Brigid Griffin 4-0-8, Shannon Hopkins 4-0-8, Marisa Ternes 1-0-2, Karissa McGrath 8-3-19, Emily Millar 0-0-0, Abbey Flowers 0-0-0. Totals 25-4-57.
North Ridgeville 7 11 9 19 — 46
Elyria Catholic 12 14 6 25 — 57
3-point goals: North Ridgeville 4-11 (Rich 2, Montgomery 2); Elyria Catholic 3-7 (McNamara 3). Field goals: North Ridgeville 16-50 (32 percent); Elyria Catholic 25-64 (39.1 percent). Free throws: North Ridgeville 10-18; Elyria Catholic 4-11. Rebounds: North Ridgeville 34, Elyria Catholic 40. Turnovers: North Ridgeville 23, Elyria Catholic 16. Fouled out: Rich, Griffin.
Junior varsity: North Ridgeville, 32-31.