LEXINGTON ? It would be easy to understand if one got confused watching Norwalk St. Paul and Mohawk warm up Saturday night in the Division IV district final at Lexington High School.
The two red-and-black squads have nearly identical uniforms, right down to the red accents that highlight the uniform. The lone difference outside of Mohawk playing in its white jerseys and St. Paul in the black versions was the name on the front and the font for the numbers.
But once the game started, there was no comparison between the two teams as Mohawk became its first girls basketball team to win a district title with a 55-35 demolishing of the Flyers.
"I'm pretty proud of our girls throughout the season. We played with a lot of heart and emotion especially after a bang 'em game (Thursday)," Mohawk coach Josh Fortney said. "It took a lot out of us physically and mentally, but we came here ready to play."
Fortney was concerned about an emotional letdown following Thursday's revenge victory against Colonel Crawford.
"I was definitely worried about that," he said. "Physically and mentally. This is an hour and 15 minute trip on the bus for us there and back. Everybody was pretty pumped up about it. I was really worried about them having a letdown. I'm glad we have a couple days off before we have to play again."
Sarah Runion said she and her teammates were tired.
"Yeah, we were definitely a little bit tired but again, we have eight seniors on this team and we make history with district finals if we win it so we definitely stepped up," she said.
If that was tired, future foes may want to be wary of a rested Mohawk squad.
The Warriors (21-4) came out with the pedal to the metal, racing out to a 10-2 lead and forcing St. Paul to use two timeouts. They didn't help as Mohawk took an 18-5 lead into the quarter break.
A 12-6 margin in the first six minutes of the second quarter caused St. Paul to call another timeout. The Flyers coach Vicky Maul must have said something inspirational because the Flyers closed out the quarter with an 8-0 run, scoring on all four of its possessions, including two off Mohawk turnovers.
"We made a couple adjustments at half and went back to a full court man," Maul said. "We basically told the kids, 'You have to go get the ball.'"
But the run mattered little as Mohawk scored the first eight points of the second half and didn't look back.
"They come out and hit that shot right off the bat and that kind of deflates you a little bit," Maul said.
The Warriors' defense was tenacious with 13 steals as part of 26-turnover effort.
"You have to give them credit. (They) have eight seniors. (They) have a lot of weapons,h Maul said. "We had our ups and downs. We didn't shoot very well. We didn't move especially well on either end, on defense or on offense. We tended to do a little standing."
Runion was a big part of everything. She had a game-high 17 points, including three big 3-pointers, and added six rebounds, three assists and two steals.
"She got some rebounds and some steals and some good two-point looks and some drives to take the ball to the hole," Fortney said.
Julie Adelsperger had 13 points and Lynsey Trusty had 10 points and seven steals. Sarah Parker had eight points, nine boards, four assists and three blocks.
St. Paul (16-9) had just one player reach double figures with Allie Fitzgerald scoring 10 points and snaring seven caroms.
"We guarded their ball handlers and tried to take away a few things that they did well when we watched them," Fortney said. "We just didn't let them get anything easy. If they wanted anything, they always had someone in black hung all over them, trying to get to the basket."
Mohawk moves on the regional semifinal Thursday at Pickerington High School North at 6:15 p.m. The Warriors will face the winner of Reedsville Eastern and South Gallia, who meet today at 6 p.m. at Ohio University.
"We wanted to make it to a district final game and we knew we'd have to get past Colonel Crawford to do that or play Colonel Crawford. That was one of our goals," Fortney said. "They've never been to a regionals as a basketball team, I don't think, in school history, boys or girls. Some of these girls have experience in softball and volleyball getting to regionals, so I hope that helps with the nerves."