ELIDA - Carey coach Phil Vaughn admitted after Thursday's Division IV regional semifinal against New Riegel that it's hard to beat a team twice in a season.
His team, although, had made a habit out of it this postseason. Carey knocked off Arlington for the second time in a sectional final, and Arcadia for the second time in the district final.
The Blue Devils jumped on the bus for Elida thinking they'd have to do it again facing their Midland Athletic League rival Blue Jackets. However, once they got to the gym, they found out it wasn't going to be the same New Riegel team.
Carey’s Hannah?Draper races down the court against?New Riegel’s Taylor Arbogast (11) and Leah Bouillon during Thursday’s regional semifinal in Elida.
New Riegel’s Lauren Zoeller and Carey’s Gwen Wentling battle for a loose ball during Thursday’s regional semifinal in Elida.
New Riegel point guard Kara Scherger was forced to sit out with an ankle injury suffered Tuesday in practice. But Carey understood that even though the Blue Jackets would play without one of its top guns, that didn't mean they were any less dangerous.
Carey worked up as much as a 12-point second half lead, but had to withstand a potential tying 3-pointer in the final 30 seconds to claim a 44-39 victory, and a spot in the Elite 8.
Carey will back in Elida Saturday night to play Holgate for a trip to Columbus.
"I'm proud of my girls," Carey coach Phil Vaughn said. "It looked like we had a lot of momentum on our side going up double digits. But, New Riegel fought their hearts out and got the momentum, just slapped the momentum right out of us. We had to handle that pressure.
"We worked all week, two people playing Kara Scherger out on the floor (in practice). Getting that information when we got here, we were a little concerned, my staff and I, about maybe a little bit of reverse psychology. We're going to get their best. They're going to try to win this thing. We're going to get everything they got maybe more than some of them."
And that was the case. But fortunately for Vaughn, he got everything he could ask for and more out of one of his senior leaders, Ali Rymer.
RRymer said it didn't matter if Scherger was out, her team had to still be aggressive in its game plan.
"We still have to have the same game plan," she said. "We still have to push the ball it doesn't matter whether she's in or not, we still have to be ready to go."
Rymer led all scorers with 25 points, while also pulling down seven rebounds to lead Carey's charge. She also hit 5 of 6 foul shots down the stretch to seal her team's win.
"She stepped up," Vaughn said. "She wants the basketball; that's what you need. We have a pretty experienced team. She wants the basketball. Ali stepped up. The kids feel that when she's hot they kept getting her the touches."
A good amount of her production came when New Riegel's center Lauren Ladd was out of the game with foul trouble. Rymer took advantage of her counterpart being forced to sit.
New Riegel coach Steve Lucius said Rymer and Carey was able to take advantage of Ladd having to sit out.
"She hasn't been in foul trouble to much this year," Lucius said. "Yeah, it really hurt us inside. We get a lot shorter when she's not in there. She does a great job guarding the paint, guarding the basket. They took advantage of that the second quarter big time. They went inside. That really hurt us."
When Ladd came back into the game, her Blue Jackets began to battle back. Taylor Kirian and Taylor Arbogast took over the fourth quarter to give their team a chance at the end.
"Heck of a comeback," Lucius said. "We started getting full court pressure. Probably could've done it a little sooner but didn't want the kids tired. The kids got after it, though. Then we started going to the basket. Especially the two Taylors. We told them 'Get to the basket, get to the foul line,' and they did it. I wish we could've done that a little sooner too."
Kirian went 6 of 6 from the foul line in the fourth quarter and Arbogast turned a steal from Haley Theis into a layup to get within two, 39-37, with 56 seconds to go. After Carey split a pair of foul shots, New Riegel got a look at a 3-pointer to tie the game, but the shot fell off the mark, and Carey was able to close out the game from the line.
"I was just praying I could make those foul shots, and I could win the game," Rymer said.
Vaughn said he felt his team was sending New Riegel to the line too much, and needed to step up on the defensive end to close things out.
"Fouls were going to become an issue there," Vaughn said. "We didn't want to keep sticking them on the line. Kirian, she must've been 40 out of 40 from the line. It didn't seem like she missed a foul shot. We wanted to try to play defense without fouling, honestly. We got a stop on that last possession when it was a 3-point game, I think it was."
"We knew that we had just as good a chance as they did to win that game," Arbogast said. "We came out we gave it everything we had. I'm so proud of my girls we never gave up."
With four seniors in its starting lineup, Carey brings a lot of experience to the table. Vaughn said that was key to withstanding the late charge.
"In a game like this, it's important," he said. "We've been in a lot of close games. It's the whole thing, it's hard to beat somebody twice. We had to play a good Arlington team twice we had to play a really good Arcadia team twice and beat those teams twice. I think part of that is because of our experience."
Arbogast and Kirian each scored 16 to lead New Riegel. Arbogast said while they may have been able to fill Scherger's production in the scorebook, the whole team needed to step up to fill Scherger's leadership void.
"She brings a lot of leadership," Arbogast said. "Everyone did a great job of stepping up and that helped to fill that leadership. And got done what we needed to. We fell a little short. But, we gave it our best. We never gave up that's for sure."
Scherger admitted it was hard watching from the bench as her team was playing for its season.
"Definitely a bummer, but I knew my teammates would come together and play their hearts out, which they did," she said.
"It's a lot more nerve wracking, that's for sure, watching them. I'm just so proud they played so hard and they got after the ball."
She said the way her team stepped up was typical of the New Riegel community.
"We had a great this year, this run we've had. It was great," she said. "I love being a part of this team and our community. Everyone comes together, everyone loves it so much, everyone is so passionate. That's what I love about our town and our program here."