Feb. 26—WILLARD — With 44.3 seconds left in Thursday’s Division IV district semifinal, St. Paul girls basketball head coach Vicky Mahl made the call.
“I just think that’s a respect thing,” Mahl said of when she subbed out her three seniors, Morgan Baxter, Camille Endsley and Danielle Smith, from a 56-40 season-ending loss vs. Seneca East inside Robert L. Haas Gymnasium at Willard High School.
“That was just a matter of those three girls have done and meant so much to our program,” Mahl said. “They deserved that last applause from our fans and their families. I can’t say enough about what they’ve done … they will be missed greatly.”
The No. 3-seeded Flyers had their chances throughout the better part of three quarters in the loss to the No. 2 Tigers. However, the play of standout Jessica Bowerman and second-chance points proved the difference in the game.
It was the second straight year the Tigers (19-5) eliminated the Lady Flyers (18-5) in the same district semifinal round. Seneca East won by a 41-30 score last season.
“Second-chance points definitely hurt us,” Mahl said. “We talked all week about keeping them off the boards and preventing them from getting easy baskets, but we just weren’t able to limit enough. And Bowerman for a second straight year did her damage.
“They are a very good team. You have to give them credit, and I told our girls I was proud of them for playing hard from the first minute to the last.”
The Tigers got off to a 12-4 lead on a 3-pointer by Bowerman with 4:32 left in the first quarter, but St. Paul responded to stay within striking distance.
Endsley and Baxter sank 3-pointers, and a basket in transition by Maddy McCall made it a 14-12 deficit at the 2:12 mark. Down 18-12, Molly Ridge made a 3-pointer with 36.3 seconds left in the quarter to make it an 18-15 deficit entering the second quarter — then Endsley scored to open the second to pull St. Paul within 18-17 at the 7:09 mark.
But the Tigers responded with a 6-0 scoring run to go up 24-17 before Endsley answered with another 3 for a 24-20 deficit with 3:34 left in the half. Seneca East then got the separation it used the rest of the game by closing the half on an 11-4 scoring run to lead 35-24 at halftime.
Smith and Baxter combined to score six straight points in the third quarter to make it a 37-30 deficit, and the Lady Flyers then had two consecutive chances to draw closer, but couldn’t convert under their basket.
Bowerman then scored at the other end for the Tigers. After McCall made a free throw for a 40-34 deficit with 2:57 left in the third, the Lady Flyers drew no closer.
Bowerman and Alexis Hicks both scored, and Bowerman opened the fourth with a basket for a 46-34 lead with 7:21 left.
The closest St. Paul got down the stretch was 48-40 with 6:16 left on a basket by Endsley.
Bowerman finished with 26 points and 8 rebounds for the Tigers, who also got 10 points and eight rebounds from Hicks.
Endsley finished with 13 points, while McCall scored nine and Baxter added eight. Smith also scored six points for the Lady Flyers.
During the four-year careers of the three seniors, St. Paul went 69-26 (.726) with a Firelands Conference championship this season, and three sectional championships.
“A sad night for those three who meant a lot to this program, and they will definitely be missed,” Mahl said. “We’ll come back (Friday), clean everything out, talk about next year and what we’re doing in the summer and go from there.
“But I’m just extremely proud of my kids,” she added. “They had a great season. They didn’t give up and put themselves in position to have chances, we just didn’t convert for stretches at a time tonight.”
Mahl noted that while the senior trio is a huge loss, the Lady Flyers also dressed 11 underclassmen on Thursday.
“We have some great kids coming back, and I don’t want to take away from that,” she said. “Some of our kids will have to work hard and fill some spots, but they have the work ethic to do that.
“We’ll get some work in and try to pull those kids up to where they need to be and hopefully have another good year next year.”
ST. PAUL (18-5)
Morgan Baxter 2-2—8; Maddie Jaworski 0-1—1; Camille Endsley 5-0—13; Molly Ridge 1-0—3; Danielle Smith 2-1—6; Maddy McCall 3-2—9. TOTALS 13-6—40.
SENECA EAST (19-5)
Mya Ousley 2-1—5; Jessica Bowerman 11-1—26; Brooke Bordner 1-1—3; Makenna Depinet 1-2—4; Kierston Cook 1-0—2; Amelia Boes 3-0—6; Alexis Hicks 5-0—10. TOTALS 24-5—56.
St. Paul 15 9 10 6 — 40
S. East 18 17 9 12 — 56
3-point FGs: (SP) Endsley 3, Baxter 2, Ridge, Smith, McCall; (SE) Bowerman 3