Shadyside’s mission continues
• Lady Tigers gearing up for fourth state tourney appearance
SHADYSIDE — It seems that each season — good or bad — has a defining moment.
For the Shadyside Lady Tigers it took until their regular-season finale on Feb. 9 when they coughed up an 11-point lead in the fourth quarter of the OVAC Class 2A title game to rival River.
With nearly two weeks until the sectional tournament opened, the Lady Tigers had ample time to go back to the drawing board, do some soul searching and, in essence, try their best to bounce back.
Clearly, it was time well spent.
Shadyside, now almost five weeks removed from that loss, finds with two new pieces of hardware — a district and regional trophy — on display and a chance to go after the ultimate prize.
Shadyside will make its fourth appearance in the OHSAA State Girls Basketball Tournament Friday afternoon at 3 against state-tourney tested Ottoville, which is making its eighth trip overall and third consecutive to Columbus.
“The dedication, hard work and fortitude displayed by these young ladies during the ups and downs of this season has been incredible,” Shadyside head coach Serge Gentile said prior to a practice earlier this week. “It’s a long road and journey to get to this point, but it’s one that we wouldn’t trade or complain about.”
Gentile gives all of the credit for how his team has performed since the aforementioned loss to River to the players.
“We knew we had goals still out there and the kids have taken it to another level,” Gentile said.
Shadyside opened tournament play with lop-sided sectional wins against Malvern and Steubenville Central. Since then, however, the Lady Tigers have had nary a breather, which includes wins over Beallsville and Fort Frye in the district and then last week’s regional tournament triumphs against Newark Catholic and Peebles.
“We’ve had to grind some games out and some were certainly tougher than others,” Gentile said. “All of these girls are in it for the same reason and when you’ve invested like these girls have it gives you a chance.”
Shadyside locked up the regional title Saturday night with a 55-45 victory against Peebles. A huge crowd of fans and supporters greeted the team when they returned to the village late that night. After taking Sunday off, the Tigers went back to work.
“Really, there isn’t a lot of time to get caught up in it because we were back to practice,” Gentile said. “I am not sure we’ll fully appreciate or realize the accomplishments until down the road.”
The Tigers are preparing for an Ottoville squad that is 24-4 and coming off a dominant performance against Arlington in its regional final Saturday night. The Big Green owned a three-point win over Arlington during the regular season and then posted a 62-28 victory over the Red Devils to get to the semifinals.
“Our center (Brynlee Hanneman) didn’t play (in the regional final) because of the flu and our other girls were determined not to let the regional semifinal be her last game,” Ottoville head coach Dave Kleman said. “Our energy was unbelievable. We made shots, got after loose balls and just played with enthusiasm. It was one of those nights when everything went well for us.”
Ottoville’s last two trips to Columbus have ended with silver trophies. It fell to Hiland in 2017 and Minster a season ago. The Wildcats are back in the field this year. While Ottoville’s made Columbus in March seem like the usual, many didn’t know how it would fare this season after losing three key players, all of whom played in the post, to graduation.
“We know it’s going to be a challenge, and it should be when you’re playing at this level,” Gentile said. “We have to contain them. They’re kind of similar to us in terms of size and they can all shoot the ball well.”
The Big Green are fueled by senior Kasey Knippen and her younger sister, Nicole, who is a sophomore. Both stand 5-7 and are dead-eye shooters from behind the arc. Kasey is signed to play at Division II, Urbana, which plays in the Mountain East Conference.
Both of the Knippens are all-around players. In the regional, Nicole led the way with 26 points and nine rebounds, while Kasey added 23 and seven boards.
Haley Hoerston, who had a team-high 14 points in the regional semifinal, Tori Thomas, Alexis Honingford and Hanneman all log key minutes for the Big Green.
“We’ve really gotten better as the season’s gone along,” Kleman said. “We lost a game to Kalida early in the season and we weren’t happy with our effort, so we dedicated ourselves to getting better. We had a nice win at the end of the season against Liberty-Benton, which really propelled us into the tournament.”
Ottoville’s defense, which shows some press and solid man-to-man in the halfcourt, will have to contend with a Tigers’ squad that’s made 221, 3-point goals this season. That currently ranks eighth all time in the OHSAA record book.
“Shadyside really shoots the ball well,” Kleman said. “We do a lot of the same things offenisvely and defensively, so it’s going to be fun to play against them. I think it’s going to come down to who’s making shots and who is not.”
The Lady Tigers — during the regional — endured slow starts in the first quarter. Gentile who complimented his team for how loose it is, knows there could be some nerves early.
“It’s easy to just say, ‘it’s just basketball … go play,'” Gentile said. “But, until you step foot on that court, in an arena that seats about 20 thousand and there are like six or seven thousand people there, it can be tough. Defensively is where we’re going to have to make our living. If we’re able to get some stops and rebounds, it will open things up for us offensively.”
The Lady Tigers are led by third-team all-Ohioan Baylee Wach. She’s averaging almost 16 points and six rebounds per game. Sophomore Tory Hendershot checks in at 11.8 and a team-high seven rebounds per game.
Senior Syd Destifanes is the Tigers’ catalyst on both ends. She’s scoring 7.2 points, but she passes out three assists, grabs three rebounds and leads the team in steals. She the heart-and-soul player.
Senior Jaycee Mayeres has been a consistent contributor. An adept 3-point shooter, she averages 5.1 points and five rebounds a game. Senior Macy Coffland rounds out the lineup at 5.7 points. She’s a solid post defender.
Off the bench, the Tigers utlize juniors Brooke Selmon and Julie Hendershot along with freshman Paige Gorby. All three have had shining moments during the course of the season. Combined they average just over 10 points a game.
SHADYSIDE will depart today for Columbus. The Tigers will check into their team hotel and then make their first trip to ‘The Schott’ to take in at least one of this evening’s two Division II semifinals. They’ll have a team breakfast on Friday, a meeting to review the scouting report and then head back to OSU to watch the 1 p.m. semifinal.
GENTILE admits that he’s had to kind of pinch himself a few times this week when he takes a minute to think about what coaching a game at the state tournament means.
“There are a lot of people who have coached many, many years and never gotten this chance,” Gentile said. “My uncle (Kim Clifford) coached 30 some years and made it just once and that was just a few years ago. Scooter (Tolzda) finally got there last year. It’s just not something that happens very often for most people, especially in our portion of the state. It’s an honor to be able to do it.”
SHADYSIDE IS 1-2 in the state semifinals. It defeated New Knoxville in the 2002 semifinal before falling to Delphos St. John in the title game. In 2003, the Lady Tigers dropped a heartbreaker to Holgate in the semis and in 2011, the then undefeated Tigers were dispatched, decisively, by Fort Loramie.
“It’s exciting that this group was able to leave its mark on Lady Tigers history,” Gentile said. “There are already three (regional champion) banners up on the wall and this group will at least get to hang one of those up there.
THE DIVISION IV state title game will be played Saturday afternoon at 5:15. The other semifinal pits Willoughby Cornerstone Christian against defending champion Minster.