UPPER SANDUSKY - To some superstitious people, the number 13 is one to shy away from. In some circles, it's considered unlucky. The Upper Sandusky Rams must not be the superstitious type. They saw number 13 sitting there, and they went out and grabbed it.
For them, the number represented their 13th North Central Conference win, which would've meant a perfect mark in league play.
The last obstacle between the Rams, the NCC's Black Division champion, and a perfect run through the league was the NCC's Silver Division champion Colonel Crawford Eagles.
Consider that obstacle cleared.
After a tied first half, Upper Sandusky pulled away over the final 16 minutes for a 56-45 victory, and a perfect 13-0 league record.
"It should be a good feeling. I think the girls deserved it," Upper Sandusky coach Brent Fahle said. "I think the girls, every day they've come into practice and they've improved. I think it's a great accomplishment for this group of kids. They work hard and they definitely deserved it."
"It was important I think to us as a team because last year we got it taken away from us," Upper Sandusky's Taylor Graboski said in regard to falling a game short of a league title last year. "This year we wanted to go undefeated in the league to make a point that the Lady Rams should be noticed, and we did."
The game matched up two of the conference's premier players in Graboski and Colonel Crawford's Nickyla Garverick. Garverick came into Tuesday's game the NCC's leader in points and rebounds with Graboski ranked third and fourth in the respective categories.
"I knew I definitely had to respect her as a post because she's a great player and I couldn't deny that," Graboski said. "I knew I had to step up my game and play tough against her and I had to rely on my teammates to have my back."
On paper the two played to a virtual stalemate. Garverick finished with 24 points and 13 rebounds while Graboski countered with 23 points and 12 rebounds. However, Garverick posted the bulk of her numbers during the first half when the Eagles couldn't get much separation from the Rams and the teams finished the half tied at 20. Graboski took the edge in the second half as her team pulled away.
"I thought we did great on Graboski in the first half, and second half, she came out, she wanted it a little more than we did," Colonel Crawford coach Amber Rall said.
Graboski credited teammate Allison Snyder with providing her with some inspirational words at halftime. After scoring six in the first half, Graboski posted 11 as her team surged ahead in the third quarter, and 17 total in the half.
"I just knew I needed to settle down on my shot because (Snyder) actually said that she had faith in me to make it if I made my bunnies against her and then I knew I couldn't let her down so I started making my bunny shots."
The other big difference between the two stars came from their supporting casts.
Upper Sandusky got 12 points from Snyder, 11 from Amber Cox and some clutch fourth-quarter foul shots from Alex Cameron.
"I thought Alex Cameron stepped up, did a nice job, got to the foul line, hit her free throws," Fahle said. "I thought Amber Cox hit a couple 3s that really gave us some momentum. Allison Snyder played another nice floor game at point guard."
Meanwhile, Colonel Crawford couldn't get a second scorer to help out Garverick. Bailey Schott scored all nine of her points in the fourth quarter when the Eagles were playing catch-up. No other Eagle scored more than four.
"(Garverick is) going to get her points; a good player like that's going to get her points," Fahle said. "But what we wanted to do was make sure that we didn't have some other kid step up for them and hit, not necessarily double figures, but hit 18, 19 points. I thought Logan Kinley did a nice job on the Schott girl and did a real nice job pressuring her. I can't say enough about our defense especially in the second half."
Rall said her team needs to have other players step up if they want to make a run in the upcoming tournaments.
"When Graboski in the first half wasn't hitting they had two other players step up and hit outside shots," she said. "That's huge. That's what makes a good team great. That's what we're at. We're a good team, we need to be a great team. We have to find someone else to step up."