Clyde flying to Columbus
ONTARIO – To look at Clyde’s Amanda Cahill and Toledo Rogers’ Cha’Ron Sweeney side-by-side, the set-up could be downright cartoonish.
The 6-foot-1 Cahill could hold the ball up in the air and the 5-foot-2 Sweeney could jump and swat at it the way a child might try to get at not-quite-low-enough hanging fruit. Close, but no prize.
In truth, both played like giants in the Division II girls regional championship game at Ontario High School here Friday night. All-Ohioan Cahill had 26 points, 19 rebounds and five assists, a notch above even her usual dominant ways.
Sweeney was just as big in her own way with 17 points, nine boards, seven assists and four steals all team highs.
But Cahill had a little bit more help from her friends and the Fliers are headed for the state tournament for the second time in three years after scoring a 61-53 win.
Clyde, Ohio’s top-rated team in the final Associated Press poll, takes a 26-0 record into Thursday’s 6 p.m. semifinal against defending state champ Shaker Heights Hathaway Brown. The Blazers advanced by bouncing Canfield 49-34.
The other semifinal pits Dayton Chaminade-Julienne against Millersburg West Holmes at 8 p.m. Thursday. Winners meet a week from today at 2 p.m. for the state title.
“Everyone contributed and did a great job,” Amanda Cahill said. “I’m proud of our whole team. I think everyone stepped up and played a great game tonight.”
But when needed most, it was Cahill who grabbed center stage.
The Fliers watched a seven-point lead early in the fourth quarter disappear. Rogers’ Keyanna Austin and Sasha Dailey hit back-to-back 3-pointers and then Sweeney fed Akienreh Johnson for an inside hoop to turn a 52-45 deficit into a 53-52 lead.
But the Flier defense blanked the Rams the rest of the way.
At the other end, Cahill hit a couple foul shots to put her team on top for good with 4:17 to play. It stayed that way for nearly two minutes before Breanne Michaels slipped a pass inside to Cahill, who drove the lane for two.
Cahill hit four more foul shots and Kelsey Michaels added another in the final 57 seconds to seal it.
“Amanda’s a big-game player,” Clyde coach John Cahill said of his daughter, a junior three-year starter. “When push comes to shove, she knows how to win. I’ll take her over anybody in the state of Ohio in high school basketball at winning time. She just finds ways to win.”
There was no argument from Rogers coach Lamar Smith.
“Cahill was very tough tonight,” he said. “She’s just a very, very good player and she exploited some of our weaknesses.”
In a pick-your-poison defensive approach, Cahill had the Fliers concentrate on stopping the Ram inside game. Though Sweeney managed to get inside for a few layups and a few dump-offs, Rogers’ main attack was from the perimeter.
What that meant was a whopping 29 shots from 3-point range with seven connections.
“We wanted to attack the basket, certainly attack the basket more than we did,” Lamar Smith said. “But the 3s were pretty much all they were giving us. They were sagging in there pretty good, so we started jacking them. Really, most them were good shots, but we couldn’t get enough of them to fall.”
Kelsey Michaels gave the Fliers a lift in the first half by scoring 12 of her 13 total points as the two teams played a 28-28 halftime draw. She also finished with nine rebounds.
“I only had three defensive rebounds at halftime, so I had to step it up,” she said. “It was a physical in there, but you can’t not be physical in a game like this or you’re going to lose.”
Clyde dominated the last half of each of the final three quarters, beginning with an 11-3 run for that halftime tie.
Rogers led 38-36 when Cahill’s jumper in the lane with 3:57 to go in the third period started a 14-5 Flier finish. Cahill had seven in the surge, including a 3-pointer, and Hannah Wadsworth added a 3-ball as well.
“I have no answer for that,” John Cahill said of strong finishes. “But I do know our kids are resilient and they really competed. And we did the things we had to do. We took care of the ball, we took good shots and we played with courage. I couldn’t be more proud.”
Breanne Michaels tossed in nine points and Wadsworth contributed eight for the winners. Marguelle Williams had 12 points while Dailey and Austin each contributed nine for the Rams.
“We came up short,” Smith said. “We made that run (in the fourth quarter), but got a little tired and made a couple bad plays. It’s tough, but we gave them a run.”
Two years ago, the Fliers advanced to the state tournament but were knocked out by Dayton Carroll in the semifinals. Last year, Lima Bath topped Clyde in the regional final.