ELIDA - The old saying is that football is a game of inches.
The same argument could be made for basketball.
It could be argued that Thursday night's Division IV regional semifinal game came down to four inches.
Carey beat New Riegel, 44-39, behind the 25 points of Ali Rymer, who took advantage of some interior mismatches on the block.
"I'm just telling myself this is my senior year and this could be my last game and try to play as hard as I can," Rymer said. "I feel I've been doing that."
The mismatches came when New Riegel post Lauren Ladd found herself on the bench with foul trouble. The senior measures 6-0, taller than any of Carey's players and three inches taller than Rymer.
"I felt playing against a post who was your own size was a more of an advantage than being against Ladd, who's a little bit taller than me," Rymer said. "She can block my shots. Kirian can kind of block my shots, but not as much, so I felt it was an advantage with her being out."
When she went to the bench, it was left to the two Taylors: Taylor Arbogast and Taylor Kirian. Great players (both scored 16 apiece) but measure 5-8, not 6-0.
"I don't think those shots Ali got were easy ones," Carey coach Phil Vaughn said. "She had somebody on her and certainly instead of somebody being six feet on her, she still had somebody on her. I'm sure that was a factor, just being able to get the shot off clean."
Ladd picked up two quick fouls late in the first quarter in the span of a minute. When she was tagged with her second one, there was 1:28 left in the quarter and New Riegel led 11-8.
"She picked up a couple of cheap early fouls and hardly played the whole first half. That really hurt us, no doubt," New Riegel coach Steve Lucius said.
Ladd remained on the bench the rest of the first half. Meanwhile, Carey went on an 18-5 scoring run, with Logan Johnson and Rymer, Carey's posts, doing the bulk of the damage. Rymer had six points and Johnson four in the run to give the Blue Devils a 26-16 lead at halftime.
"It was pretty tough (being on the bench). I was wanting to get in there the whole time," Ladd said. "I was really hoping he'd put me back in there even though I had a couple of fouls. I just wanted to get back in there."
Vaughn said his team knew they needed to keep feeding the hot hand.
"Ali stepped up and the kids feel that. When she's hot, they kept getting her touches," Vaughn said.
Ladd came back in the third and helped New Riegel get it back to five, 26-21, before being called for her third foul at the 4:48 mark.
It led to Rymer scoring Carey's next six points to give the Blue Devils a 32-23 lead.
"Lauren getting in foul trouble really hurt us inside. She's our only kid really over 5-8 and they took advantage of that in the second quarter," Lucius said. "They got the ball inside and got high percentage shots. That really hurt us. The second quarter killed us."
It also led to a huge rebounding advantage in the game as Carey held a 29-19 margin on the glass, including an 11-3 margin on the offensive glass. Rymer and Johnson each had seven boards a piece for Carey.
Ladd returned to start the fourth and didn't pick up a foul the rest of the way. And in the process, no more points were scored in the paint.
"I'm one of the taller players so (my teammates) were having trouble fronting those tall girls. So once I got in there, it probably helped with that on defense," Ladd said.
Lucius said Rymer is a handful for any player to handle.
"She's a strong, strong girl. The first time we played, she got into foul trouble and wasn't too much of a factor. But we know she's a good player. She kind of took over the inside when Lauren went out and she's a great foul shooter too."
Lucius said having Ladd for 32 minutes could have been a difference maker.
"We worked hard with her to stay on the floor and keep her hands straight up. She's hard to shoot over top of. She's close to 6-1," Lucius said. "That was the plan for the whole game and if we could have had her in for the whole game, I like to think it would have made a difference.
"We're not real tall when you take her out. We get real short, real fast."