Rogers carries momentum into second half, beats Bellevue to advance to state

MANSFIELD — It was almost a repeat of last year.

For the second year in a row, Bellevue was holding its own against powerful Toledo Rogers late in the second quarter.

But as the Rams did last year, they closed the second quarter strong and took that momentum into halftime.

Rogers dominated the third quarter again, topping the Lady Red 59-37 in a Division II regional final at Mansfield Senior High School on Friday.

“They were the better team tonight,” Bellevue coach Kory Santoro said. “They are from Toledo. They have 100,000 people to choose from. We all know what they do.”

Bellevue finishes its season at 24-3.

“We have been in a lot of good games this year,” Rogers coach Lamar Smith said. “This helped in this tournament run. Our girls stayed executed. They did not let the crowd get to them.”

Cory Santoro hit a 3 and Riley Mohr drained a jumper as the Lady Red tied the game at 20 with 3:24 left in the second quarter. But, Rogers (25-2) put together its best run of the first half from there.

Zia Cooke hit a jumper before Madison Royal-Davis grabbed an offensive rebound, scored and was fouled. Her free throw made it 25-20. After an empty possession by Bellevue, Cooke hit another jumper and a layup by Royal-Davis off an assist from Cooke made it 29-20.

The Lady Red called timeout, but it hardly stopped the Rams. Tanaziah Hines scored off an offensive rebound to finish off the 11-0 run for Rogers. Payton Vogel hit two free throws to cut the lead to 31-22 at halftime.

“That is what our game plan — to put a lot of pressure on them and shut their guards down,” Smith said. “We did that tonight.”

The surge from the Rams continued into the third quarter. Hines opened the quarter’s scoring with a layup before Cortney Gardner hit a 3. Vogel split two free throws, but Gardner and Royal-Davis scored and Cooke made two free throws for a 42-26 lead.

Cooke hit a 3-pointer, but Emma Bollinger countered with a triple of her own and Vogel scored as the Lady Red drew within 47-31 after three quarters.

Cooke, Royal-Davis and Hines opened the fourth quarter scoring for a 53-31 lead. Bellevue never got the lead under 20 points the rest of the game.

“I knew they would play us hard,” Smith said. “They have been playing hard all year. They are a scrappy team. They have a lot of heart.”

Rogers jumped out to a 7-1 lead, but turnovers started to hurt the Rams. Vogel hit a 3 and Gabrielle Turner hit a baseline jumper cut the lead to 12-10 after eight minutes. Rogers had six turnovers in the first quarter.

Gardner led the Rams with 21 points.

“I am very proud of her,” Smith said. “She has been having ups and downs this year. She is only a sophomore and she grew up tonight.”

Cooke and Royal-Davis had identical lines of 16 points and 10 rebounds.

“We did not play very well tonight,” coach Santoro said. “They were the better team. Hats off to them.”

Vogel led Bellevue with 12 points. Casey Santoro scored eight points on 3-of-11 shooting while Cory Santoro tallied four points on a 1-of-11 shooting.

“(That) was huge,” Smith said. “We focused on that in practice. We knew Courtney could do it. She took the challenge. She wanted her (Casey Santoro) and she showed up tonight.”

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