BARBERTON — It took a miracle to upset No. 4 seed Columbia on Tuesday in the Division III sectional tournament — Casey Miracle.
Rootstown’s 5-foot-7 junior center scored 22 points and grabbed 12 rebounds to lead the fifth-seeded Rovers to a 53-47 win.
It wasn’t all bad news for Lorain County teams, however, as top-seeded Elyria Catholic easily disposed of Cardinal 67-30 in the night’s opening game.
The Panthers jumped out to a 45-12 halftime lead en route to earning their way into a Thursday sectional final against Oberlin.
“Overall I thought we played well,” Elyria Catholic coach Eric Rothgery said. “It’s hard to keep the same intensity when you have a big early lead. It was good to get Riley (Schill) back in the lineup for the first time in three weeks.”
Schill, the Panthers’ starting freshman point guard, has been sidelined since the final week of January after undergoing an emergency appendectomy.
“It was a little tough tonight, I got tired fast,” Schill said. “I just want to get stronger with every game. I need to be in there Thursday to run our plays because that’s what matters the most, if we’re able to advance in the districts.”
Brittney McNamara led Elyria Catholic (19-4), scoring all of her game-high 17 points in the first half. She connected on three 3-pointers to give her 53 on the season. Senior Karissa McGrath was also in double figures with 12 points.
“It’s all about redemption from last year and how we lost our first tournament game,” Mcnamara said, It’s a hard thing to have to think about all year. We had this game tonight and we have Oberlin on Thursday. Those are the two most important games of the year for us, because they’re going to set the tone for us. We want to win the next eight games.”
Jess Koches scored nine points to lead Cardinal (2-20), which had three sophomores in the starting five and no seniors on the roster.
Elyria Catholic’s defense held Cardinal to 32 percent shooting while forcing 16 turnovers, but Rothgery thinks there is still room for improvement.
“I thought our defense could have been a little better,” he said. “We lost focus a few times. When we pressed or trapped we looked good but when we were just playing a straight out man or zone we got a little lazy.”
Columbia (12-11) battled back from a five-point deficit at the end of the third quarter to tie the game on four occasions in the final five minutes, but each time Rootstown (10-13) answered.
Senior Jenna Guth led the Raiders with 21 points.
“Jenna has been at every conditioning, every open gym, she has done everything we have ever asked of her,” Columbia coach Ken Marlette said. “It’s kids like that that you love coaching. It would be nice to have a whole team like her. She is going to be missed.”
Miracle scored Rootstown’s first 10 points and six more in the final period. The Rovers relied on their ability to work the ball inside most of the night.
Rootstown didn’t make any shots from behind the 3-point arc.
The Raiders got a glimpse of the future with the play of freshman Alison Schafer, who scored 12 points, including a jump shot that closed the gap to 47-46, with 50 seconds remaining in the game.
Rootstown will face Wellington in Thursday’s other sectional final.
Elyria Catholic 67, Cardinal 30
CARDINAL (30): Jess Koches 2-5-9, Cheyenne Polverine 2-0-4, Elizabeth Timas 3-1-7, Christine Morris 1-1-3, Kendal Gingerich 1-0-2, Haley Adams 0-1-1, Emily Kruse 2-0-4. Totals 11-8-30.
ELYRIA CATHOLIC (67): Julia Scapelli 2-0-4, Josie Carandang 3-0-8, Brittney McNamara 7-0-17, Shannon Hopkins 3-3-9, Brooke Nedrich 1-0-2, Karissa McGrath 6-0-12, Riley Schill 5-1-12, Margot Novak 1-1-3. Totals 28-5-67.
Cardinal 5 7 10 8 — 30
Elyria Catholic 23 22 16 6 — 67
Three-point goals: Elyria Catholic (McNamara 3, Schill); Field goals: Cardinal 15-47 (32 percent), Elyria Catholic 28-63 (44 percent); Free throws: Cardinal 8-14 (57 percent), Elyria Catholic 5-11 (45 percent); Rebounds: Cardinal 31, Elyria Catholic 45; Turnovers: Cardinal 16, Elyria Catholic 14; Total fouls: Cardinal10, Elyria Catholic 16.
Rootstown 53, Columbia 47
COLUMBIA (47): Jenna Guth 8-4-21, Emily Viccarone2-1-5, Alison Schafer 4-2-12, Kaley Marshall 1-6-8, Taylor Napoli 0-1-1. Totals 15-14-47.
ROOTSTOWN (53): Jalynn Myers 1-1-3, Tori Goodpaster 2-3-7, Madison Hartung 2-0-4, Brandi Barkhurst 2-3-7, Alex Cramer 2-2-6, Cayannne Breznak 2-0-4, Casey Miracle 8-6-22. Totals 19-15-53.
Columbia 9 12 9 17 — 47
Rootstown 10 12 13 18 — 53
Three-point goals: Columbia (Schafer 2, Guth); Field goals: Columbia 15-54 (32 percent), Rootstown 19-63 (38 percent); Free throws: Columbia 14-24 (58 percent), Rootstown 15-28 (54 percent); Rebounds: Columbia 33, Rootstown 45; Turnovers: Columbia 11, Rootstown 18; Total fouls: Columbia 17, Rootstown 17.
Contact Todd Shapiro at 329-7135 or email@example.com.