MASSILLON — Has Lake Ridge taken the first tentative steps toward a solid girls basketball tradition?
Could be. The team this season made school history by winning its first district championship and advancing to a Sweet 16. And that after just returning from a two-year ban on postseason play because of recruiting violations.
No matter that the Royals’ finest season came to an end Thursday night on the court at Massillon Perry High School.
It had to hurt to have frittered away what had seemed like a decent lead, only to drop a 38-28 Division IV regional semifinal to Berlin Hiland.
But don’t forget, the Hawks (24-3) have built one of the state’s premier programs in the small-school division. They won four state championships in the first decade of the century. They’ve been to a Final Four a dozen times and last season lost to Arlington of Hancock County in the state championship game.
And Lake Ridge, which bowed out at 22-4, held the Hawks to fewer than 40 points. No other opponent had done that this season and only eight teams held them to fewer than 50.
Hiland, meantime, limited four teams to fewer than 10 points.
It would seem that the Royals have a bright future. First-year coach Lisa Medvetz agreed.
“This means a lot to us,” Medvetz said. “We’re growing and Lake Ridge is a great school. The program’s growing and I don’t think I could have had a better first year with these girls. I got a good young group coming up, so I think the sky’s the limit for Lake Ridge.”
Lake Ridge appeared to have the Hawks in a bind after holding them to two points in the first quarter and six in the second, while building a 16-8 halftime lead.
Indeed, the Royals limited the Hawks to 15 percent field-goal shooting for the half.
Things changed after the break.
“I think it did change,” senior Kyndall Wellons said of the Royals’ second-half defense. “They got on that streak, and their crowd was bigger than ours, so once they started rolling, it got bad. I’m happy that we came as far as we did, but I’m not satisfied.”
A dismal end began to materialize when Hiland engineered a 13-2 lead that lasted most of the third quarter. Until then, the Royals had led from opening tip and had held outside sharpshooter Regina Hochstetler scoreless.
That also changed.
Hochstetler started the third-quarter run by converting a three-point play, scoring a 3-point field goal with just under three minutes to go in the period and scoring six more points — including two more threes — in the fourth quarter. Hiland trailed just 22-21 going into the final eight minutes, after having lead for the first time, 21-20, late in the period.
“Berlin’s a great team,” said Royals senior Sydney Clark, the Division IV Northeast Lakes District player of the year. “We didn’t come in thinking this was going to be easy and it wasn’t. We had the lead and we let them come in. They made a couple of threes and they started running their offense. We had a good season and I had fun.
“We had new coaches — they were great — and that’s all I can ask for,” she said. “I’ll remember this forever. Just the chance to be back in the tournament. It would have been nice to win, but it doesn’t always work that way. I’ll always remember it till I get old.”
Contact Bob Daniels at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.