ELYRIA — It took a long time for Fairview to figure out Vermilion’s 1-2-2 zone.
By the time it did, it was too late.
For the second straight game, the Sailors held their opponent to just over 30 points, clinching a spot in the Division II district title game with a 37-31 win Thursday over top-seeded Fairview at Elyria High School.
The fifth-seeded Sailors (14-10) will play third-seeded Holy Name, a 33-25 winner Thursday over Padua, in Saturday’s final at 1 p.m. It’s the first district final for Vermilion since 1995.
Last week, in a 36-32 win over Rocky River, it took the Pirates nearly seven minutes to make their first field goal. Thursday, the Warriors didn’t make their first shot from the floor until 5:20 had gone by and Vermilion already had a 10-0 lead.
“They couldn’t solve it,” Vermilion coach Colin Irish said of the Sailors’ zone. “It was a great job of communicating by our girls. They’re drained after this game, but it’s a good group of girls and this was a tribute to the hard work they’ve put in this year.”
Vermilion allowed just 11 points in the first half and 16 through three quarters. Though Fairview made a late run and cut what was a 13-point lead to two with 2:17 left in the game.
But Vermilion scored the last four points to secure the win.
And they never got out of the zone.
“We’ve played the 1-2-2 all season, and it’s gotten better over the course of the year,” said Hannah Bartlome, who led Vermilion with 12 points. “It was a little shaky at first, but now we’ve gotten into a flow with our talk and we know what to do for the most part. It works out well for us.”
Fairview coach Bill Harvey blamed the loss on his team’s early lack of execution … and himself. He said his team was ready for the Vermilion zone, but didn’t come out of the gate ready to play.
“We worked on (the zone) all week,” said Harvey after his team ended its season 20-5. “When you get this far you have to figure teams are going to go with what got them there, and we watched enough tape on their zone and worked on it all week. I don’t know what happened at the beginning, but we were very lethargic. I will take the blame for that.
“We weren’t ready to warm up and that carried over into the beginning of the game. You have to give credit to Vermilion, they came out and knocked some shots down. We had some mental breakdowns and dug ourselves a hole.”
In the last two games combined, Vermilion has held its opponents to just 26.7 percent shooting (23-86).
“Our defense is what we work on the most in practice,” Bartlome said. “Coach Irish is hard on us about our defense. We played great for the most part. We had a couple of slip-ups that we have to fix before we play Saturday, but other than that our defense was amazing. I’m so proud of my team.”
Ali Kowal scored six points and had a game-high 11 rebounds for the Sailors. Andrea Dillion had her second straight solid game down low, scoring eight points, grabbing eight rebounds and blocking four shots.
“Ali does so many little things that don’t necessarily show up in the box score,” Irish said. “She had a great game. Andrea had a couple huge defensive plays and Kalynn Smith, who hasn’t played that much, made a big contribution. She had a couple of steals and a big putback. Andrea had that unbelievable putback late in the game. … I’m just overwhelmed. I’m so happy for the girls.”
Kowal also made a big contribution inbounding the ball against the Warriors’ pressure defense. Time after time she was able to find AuBree LaForce, who was able to shake open despite facing a double-team most of the night.
“It was really nerve-racking, but you have to find the open person,” Kowal said. “We had some good plays down the court, so that worked out well for us.”
Irish is hoping the Sailors aren’t done just yet.
“These girls have taken us a place to where we knew we could get,” Irish said. “Now we have to come out and play hard Saturday and keep things going.”
Vermilion 37, Fairview 31
VERMILION (37): AuBree LaForce 2-2-7, Hannah Bartlome 5-0-12, Andrea Dillon 4-0-8, Jennifer Kovarik 1-0-2, Ali Kowal 3-0-6, Kalynn Smith 1-0-2, Ellen Rossi 0-0-0. Totals 16-2-37.
FAIRVIEW (31): Brianna Kovacevich 0-0-0, Rosalie Morrison 0-0-0, Kaitlyn Smith 5-0-12, Kelsey Bilak 4-0-10, Megan Coyne 3-2-9, Rachel Malloy 0-0-0, Shannon Gullette 0-0-0. Totals 12-2-31.
Vermilion 10 10 4 13 — 37
Fairview 2 9 5 15 — 31
Three-point goals: Vermilion 3-8 (Bartlome 2, LaForce), Fairview 5-24 (Smith 2, Bilak 2, Coyne); Field goals: Vermilion 16-44 (32 percent), Fairview 12-50 (24 percent); Free throws: Vermilion 2-5 (40 percent), Fairview 2-6 (33 percent); Rebounds: Vermilion 40 (Kowal 11), Fairview 26 (Coyne 6); Turnovers: Vermilion 19, Fairview 8; Total fouls: Vermilion 10, Fairview 11.
Contact Mike Perry at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.