CINCINNATI – The fast start, the nine-point halftime lead and the 14-point lead three minutes into the second half didn’t mean the Centerville girls could coast.
Not in the Division I district finals in this part of state.
“In Southwest Ohio, Division I girls basketball is brutal,” Centerville coach Adam Priefer said. “These district finals are regional finals in other regions of the state.”
When Lebanon cut the Elks’ lead to seven and trailed by just 10 heading into the fourth quarter, the Elks decided to finish the way they started the game.
“We knew they would come out and play till the end of the game, so we just had to come out with the same mentality as the first quarter, finish the game out with everything we have,” Centerville’s Cotie McMahon said. “Every play matters.”
Amy Velasco started the fourth with a pair of 3-pointers and the Elks didn’t allow a point until there was 2:50 left. Now they could coast. The Elks won 59-42 for their second district championship in three years and ran their winning streak to 15.
“It’s a great accomplishment for us, but we have to continue to keep playing,” Priefer said.
Next up for the Elks (22-2) is unbeaten Mount Notre Dame, the 2019 state champion, 2020 state semifinalist when the tournament was stopped and the owner of a 68-game winning streak. The teams meet at 5:30 Wednesday at Princeton in the regional semifinals. The Elks lost by nine at MND in January.
“I’m actually really excited for this game,” McMahon said. “Hopefully we come out with a strong mentality ready to play, ready to play our game, and hopefully we play together and come out and take a win.”
Centerville will be joined in the regional semis by fellow GWOC member Wayne. The Warriors advanced Saturday when Princeton was unable to play because of Covid-19 quarantine. Wayne (17-3) will face unbeaten Mason.
Velasco led the Elks with 21 points and four assists and McMahon scored 18 with a game-high 12 rebounds. McMahon had the hot hand early as the Elks bolted to a 21-6 lead after the first quarter.
“We got the ball moving inside out, got some things going,” Priefer said. “Then we stalled out, and that’s a credit to Lebanon. We didn’t move the ball as well and had a little foul trouble.”
Lindsey Sauderland led Lebanon (18-6) with a career-high 23 points in her final game.
Mason 60, Springboro 44: Tom Benjamin had seen this script before. When his Springboro team went to Mason on Jan. 18, the Panthers led by seven in the third period. The Comets went on a 17-4 run and won 62-55 in overtime.
On Saturday in a Division I district final, the Panthers led 25-20 late in the first half and two of Mason’s top three players were on the bench. The Comets scored the next 11 points for a 31-25 halftime lead. The Comets (20-0) controlled the second half and put four scorers in double figures led by Marilyn Popplewell’s 16. The Comets shot 46.5 % and made 7 of 17 3-pointers.
“Give them credit – they shot the ball way better today than the day we played them earlier,” Benjamin said. “And they played better basketball. I thought we became impatient. In the first half, we had too many turnovers, and they got too many second shots.”
Springboro (17-8) says goodbye to seniors Jordan Hobbs, who reached 1,000 points in the Panthers’ first tournament game, and Peyton Nation, who scored over 900 points. Hobbs, who will play in college at Rice, scored 19 points against Mason and Nation had 14.
“Jordan is a great player,” Benjamin said. “Most of the things we did were built around her. Peyton was a huge part of our program for four years. We’re going to be hard-pressed to have two better players than that on the same team for a while. They’re the heart and guts of our group.”