COLUMBUS — With a defensive peskiness that frustrated their taller Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary opponents, the Carroll Patriots out-rebounded and out-shot their way to a 57-38 win March 14 in the Division II girls high school basketball state semifinals at Ohio State University’s Jerome Schottenstein Center.
Typical of a team with many talented players on its roster, Carroll freshman Sarah Ochs recorded a career-high and game-high 14 points to lead the Patriots. Ochs was also instrumental in an 11-0 third-quarter run that gave Carroll a convincing 45-28 lead.
“I really just wanted to do whatever the team needed on any given day, and that’s what this team needed today” Ochs said. “All of us really wanted this, and I’m so glad that we got this.”
Juniors Allie Stefanek and Julia Keller both finished with 12 points scored, while all-Ohio selection Elisabeth Bush finished with eight.
“We knew this game was going to be such a defensive battle for us, just because they are such a big team. We’re not a very big team at all, Julia (Keller) is our tallest player at 6-feet and we go down from there. So we were concerned with them getting the ball inside to their bigger players,” Carroll coach Cecelia Grosselin said. “Defensively, we just tried to stop their forwards down low.
“We told our girls ‘if the ball goes up, we need to be behind them,’ so that we were in a good defensive position. We kind of played around with different ways that we were going to defend their bigs, and our defensive coach —Mike Austria — figured the best way to do that would be to keep our girls behind, so that they’d be in position to defend.”
Grosselin said it took most of the first half for the Patriots to find their offensive rhythm. Carroll had a precarious 26-20 lead at the break.
“We said at the half that we had to just keep working hard at boxing out and rebounding. … Rebounding was defnitely a key to winning this game,” she said.
Despite having six players listed at 5-foot-11 or taller (to one for Carroll), the Fighting Irish were out-rebounded by a 32-24 margin. Stefanek, Keller and Bush each grabbed a game-high five rebounds.
Eleven-year St. Vincent-St. Mary coach Carley Whitney came away impressed with Carroll’s scoring ability.
“I knew Carroll had a lot of good shooters, but they were better than I thought they were,” Whitney said.
All-Ohio choice Maria Dobson led the Irish with 10 points. Fellow all-state pick Lanae Riley was limited to two points and one rebound.
“They did a good job of packing it in and making it hard for us to touch the ball, and that affected us a bit,” Whitney said. “And that kept some of our inside presence, it made it hard to get the ball inside, and then to turn square up and face the basket. I have absolutely regrets. This season was one heckuva ride.”
SVSM will graduate a team-record eight seniors from its team. The Fighting Irish finish with an 18-10 record.
Carroll will now take on defending state champion Toledo Rogers — a 56-48 winner over Thornville Sheridan — in the state title game, which is scheduled for 2 p.m. on Saturday, March 16 back at the Schottenstein Center.