Fliers grounded by Blazers

COLUMBUS – It’s easy to get caught up in the numbers.

Clyde had the No. 1 team in the state and the co-player of the year in Division II in Amanda Cahill.

Shaker Heights Hathaway Brown had its own No. 1, Vanessa Smith, who shared the honor with Cahill.

The Fliers hadn’t lost a game through 27 tries going into the girls basketball semifinal at Value City Arena.

The Blazers have been to seven straight semifinals and have won the last four state titles.

But it’s two other numbers Thursday night that have Hathaway Brown playing in its seventh straight state final: 22 and 12.

The Blazers converted 22 turnovers and 12 offensive boards into 31 points in a 57-38 beating of the Fliers on Thursday night.

“I thought our defense the whole game, but particularly in the first and fourth quarters, really kind of set the tone for us,” Hathaway Brown coach Paul Barlow said. “In this tournament run we’ve had this year, we’ve had pretty good defense across the board. I think we’re averaging around 30-32 points to our opponents in this run and that’s certainly been the key and it was again today.”

Hathaway Brown (22-6) moves on to face West Holmes, who beat Chaminade Julienne, 69-44, in the nightcap. The Knights bested the Blazers earlier in the year, 49-45.

Smith and fellow post Nia Marshall got the bulk of the attention for the Blazers, and were held to 10 and 14 points respectively on 9 of 25 shooting.

“I thought in the first half on the offensive glass as these two got some putbacks that really helped us inflate the lead,” Barlow said in reference to Smith and Marshall.

But it was the Blazers’ other weapons that hurt Clyde as the guards and wings went 5 of 8 from outside the arc, including a 3-of-4 effort from Stephanie Solano, who finished with 11 points.

“I would take that, in all honestly, night in, night out,” Barlow said. “We’ve had a couple of games where we’ve shot the ball well from the outside which is a key thing against that zone to open the inside. It also allows us to crash the boards and get some of those offensive rebounds.”

Clyde coach John Cahill said the plan was to let the Blazers fire away from outside.

“We really were trying to bait them into taking shots. On film, we had seen they hadn’t shot the ball particularly well and tonight they did and that’s a credit to them,” coach Cahill said. “A credit to them, when you step up and make shots in this kind of a stage, you deserve to win and they did.”

Beth Brzozowski had 10 points, including six points off two old-fashioned 3-pointers to open the fourth quarter, after Clyde had used an 8-0 run to close the third quarter down, 41-31.

“We got it to 10 and I told the kids if we could get it under singles and make it competitive late, I felt like we’ve found ways in games like that all year,” coach Cahill said. “They just came out and took over again and went on a 6-0 run. We gave up a lot of turnovers where they got easy baskets on them. At the beginning of the fourth quarter, they showed why they continue to win state championships.”

Lysette Roman added seven off the bench and Stephanie Poland had five points and seven rebounds in the victory.

Clyde led 5-0 early before Hathaway Brown exposed the Fliers 2-3 zone with a pair of Solano 3-pointers to take the lead for good.

By the end of the first quarter it was 14-7 and by half, the Blazers forged ahead further, 34-21.

“We got off to a good start but they were very physical and made plays,” coach Cahill said. “I thought they deserved to win. They made shots. They didn’t turn the ball over.”

Cahill had 16 points, nine boards and four blocks but also eight turnovers in the loss for a team that has just one senior. Hannah Wadsworth tossed in 10 points.

“Amanda Cahill is a hell of a basketball player. We’ve seen a lot of great basketball players but she’s as good as we’ve seen,” Barlow said. “Primarily Vanessa was on her most of the game. I thought she did a great job of containing her. We talked about coming into it that if she scored 15, 18 points, we’d take it and see if anybody else do some damage against us. We did a good job against them across the board.”