NORWALK - One would be wise to watch his or her belongings around the Mohawk girls hoops team, particularly if that item is a basketball. The Warriors have a small problem with kleptomania.
The Warriors had 19 steals among 28 Buckeye Central turnovers in Saturday's 63-34 victory. In the Division IV sectional final nightcap, St. Paul outlasted Seneca East 53-51 in a heart-stopping showdown that came down to the final seconds.
For Mohawk, it was a chance to get back to the place where it saw its season end last year - the district semifinal - as well as the opponent who did it - Colonel Crawford, who beat Lucas Saturday in the Galion sectional.
"I've taken that attitude (of unfinished business)," Fortney said. "I hope they take it the same as me. We have a big game on Thursday. I hate to say we've already started talking about it but we've already started talking about it. We've talked about in the past couple weeks. We've focused on the next opponent and the next opponent, but always in the back of our mind is the chance that hopefully we're going to play Colonel Crawford. Hopefully we'll be lucky enough to play them."
But before Mohawk (19-4) could worry about exacting revenge, it had to handle Buckeye Central (5-19). The first quarter was reasonable enough, with Mohawk building a 15-7 lead, thanks to 50 percent shooting inside the arc and six BC turnovers.
"We started out looking like we were feeling it out. New gym. New place. But the second quarter we did what we wanted to do and knocked down some shots. We gave Buckeye Central a hard time running what they wanted to run," Fortney said. "I thought we did a little better in the second quarter."
But the game was decided for all intents and purposes early in the second quarter. Mohawk rattled off five straight to open the quarter and led 20-7 with six minutes to go until intermission.
In the span of 38 seconds, Mohawk forced five turnovers and turned them into 10 points to give the Warriors a commanding 30-7 lead. Buckeye Central didn't score until there was 14.2 seconds to go in the half when Jenna Delarber, who had a team-high 11 points, scored a bucket, drew a foul and sank the free throw. By half it was 37-10.
"Our press actually worked," Fortney said. "That was big, and separated us."
The Buckettes ran off eight unanswered to open the second half before Fortney called a timeout with 2:58 to go in the quarter and get his team realigned. The ship was righted by the end of the third as Mohawk was back in front by 23, 45-22.
"We wanted them to come out after halftime and give 100 percent and put them away," Fortney said. "To Buckeye Central's credit, what (BC coach Sarah Krichbaum) said in the locker room must have been a lot better than what I had to say because they came out ready to play."
Ashley Parker finished with 14 points and four steals. Lynsey Trusty matched the steals but tossed in 11 points. Megan Cleveland came off the bench to score 12 points.
"She's been playing JV all year and she'd had a heck of a JV year. The game before the New Riegel game we gave her a varsity uniform and we've been working her into practice," Fortney said of Cleveland. "I've been trying to share her nice with coach Rodney (Gilliland) but now that JV is over, she's all mine."
Sammi Marcum, BC's lone senior, scored four points and had three boards in her final game.
Krichbaum could not be reached for comment after the game.
What the opener lacked in close margin, the second game more than made up for it.
The game had four lead changes by the time Ashton Daniel hit one of her four 3-pointers to open the second quarter. But a bucket by Allie Fitzgerald gave St. Paul (15-8) a lead it would never again relinquish.
By halftime, St. Paul had used superior rebounding, particularly on offense, to build a 29-22 lead. Sabrina Schaffer led the effort, with 11 of her 16 rebounds coming in the first 16 minutes.
"We commented on that at halftime. We commented on it before the game started. It didn't work so we brought it back up at halftime again," Seneca East coach Dave Stallings said. "The girls stepped up (in the second half) and rebounded."
What also aided that cause was Ashton Daniel, who drew her third foul midway through the second quarter and rode the bench through half.
"Ashton can get down on herself in times like that. Tonight she didn't. She sat her time on the bench, regrouped and played the entire second half with any trouble," Stallings said. "The problem, though, is when Ashton gets into foul trouble like that, it affects the rest of the team's mentality. We hung in there and the kids didn't quit."
St. Paul coach Vicky Mahl said it was fortunate for her team to have Seneca East's most prolific scorer on the bench.
"It helps. As I tell my kids, the referees don't make or break games. Sure, sometimes they create issues but we had foul issues too," Mahl said.
Daniel and her teammates stormed back in the second half and chipped the lead down to 43-38 by the break. That's when the Daniel and Seina Adachi show began. It must be the bloodlines as Adachi, Daniel's cousin, started trading buckets with Daniel to bring Seneca East back to within one or two points numerous times in the final eight minutes. The pair scored all 13 of Seneca East's points in the fourth quarter.
Adachi scored with 1:41 left to make it 50-48 and followed with a steal. But SE lost the ball out of bounds and Bella Stoll capitalized on St. Paul's trip down the floor with a bucket with 48 seconds left to make it 52-48.
The ever dangerous Daniel wasn't done yet, though, answering with a 3-point dagger just eight seconds later to make it 52-51.
Adachi tapped a St. Paul pass to her teammate Brittany Brookes, who raced upcourt, but her contested layup didn't fall and Schaffer was fouled with 14 seconds to go. Schaffer made her first, missed her second and Hannah Hahler, who had seven boards, came down with the miss.
Brookes missed another shot and Emily Depinet, who had a team-high 13 rebounds, wrestled with a St. Paul player for the rebound. Seneca East was awarded the jump ball with four seconds left.
Stallings called a timeout and drew up his play.
With Daniel having scored 29 points, Mahl said she knew Daniel had to get double the attention.
That left Adachi open on the inbounds as she cut from the arc to basket, was hit in stride with the pass and was fouled while she fired. The ball rimmed off.
"That's a play I actually stole from another school that used it against us," Stallings said. "In reality, Ashton is supposed to get the ball. The change I made is I told Seina to take (the defender) away and break hard to the basket and she was wide open."
With 2.8 seconds left, Adachi stepped to the line. She missed the first free throw and Stallings called the timeout.
"I asked Seina, and sometimes it's hard to know if she understands what you're saying to her, I asked her if she had ever intentionally missed a foul shot and she put her head straight down," Stallings said of his point guard who came to Seneca East this year from Japan. "She thought I was mad at her for missing the first shot, which wasn't the case. The case was I wanted her to intentionally miss that (second) shot but I told her, 'You have to hit the front of the rim,' and she's a very coachable kid for coming from (6,500) miles away."
The quick lesson in intentional misses was executed to perfection as Adachi hit the rim and ball came back to Depinet who tried firing the ball through traffic but it didn't find the bottom of the basket and St. Paul escaped with the win.
"It happened just the way we drew it up but we didn't get the tip and we didn't get the foul call," Stallings said.
Stoll finished with 18 points. Erin Kramer had 13 rebounds while Schaffer had a double-double with 17 points and 16 caroms.
"Sabrina did a phenomenal job tonight: shooting, rebounding, playing defense," Mahl said. "The rest of the kids did what they had to do."
Adachi finished with 14 points and a block and Daniel had eight rebounds to add to her scoring efforts.
"For a freshman, she's pretty unconscious when it comes to shooting," Mahl said, referring to Adachi. "She's going to be a good ball player."
Daniel, Depinet, Lauren Sprenger and Jessica Enders round out the seniors for Seneca East.
"I'm sorry for my four seniors that it had to end this way," Stallings said. "Those four are leaders. We didn't quit and we had our chances at the end of the game to win it, tie it, either way. We just came up on the short end."