Lady Tigers advance to Saturday’s title tilt
Shadyside, McDonald clash with berth in state tournament at stake
MASSILLON — From sweet to elite!
Such is the case for the Shadyside Lady Tigers.
Coupling an impressive defensive effort with a balanced offensive showing, the Lady Tigers were simply too much for previously undefeated Loudonville in an impressive 70-57 victory Thursday evening in a Division IV regional semifinal at Perry High School.
“The girls are unbelievable. I mean unbelievable,” Shadyside head coach Serge Gentile said. “We get to play another one, and that’s the way we’ve been looking at it (during the tournament). Just win and you get to play one more.”
The victory earns Shadyside a return trip to Perry Saturday night with a trip to the University of Dayton and the Division IV State Tournament on the line. The Tigers will take on McDonald, which routed Berlin Center Western Reserve, 57-25, in Thursday’s nightcap.
“After coming up short (in the tournament) last year, we’re really excited to be in this position,” Shadyside senior guard Baylee Wach said. “Being one game away, we know we can make it back if we play like we did (Thursday). We just have to go out and do it. This was our best effort in terms of playing hard from beginning to end and it paid off for us.”
Shadyside, which did not substitute one time in the entire game, played maybe its best game of the season when considering all facets. The pressure defense was intense, forcing 29 Redbird turnovers, many of which led to scoring chances.
“No coach is ever going to tell you his team played perfectly, but I think that was about as close as it’s going to get for us,” Gentile said.
The offense was efficient and balanced. Four of the five Tiger players cracked double figures and the fifth finished with nine.
“We try to impress on the girls that if they’re tired, the other team has to be tired, too,” Gentile said. “If you think they’re tired, what do you think they are? These girls find another gear and just push through the pain and really persevere.”
All of those intangibles were on display against a Loudonville team which bows out at 25-1 after winning its first district title since 1992.
“We didn’t handle the pressure very well,” Loudonville head coach Tyler Bates said. “We wanted it to be a team effort in handling the ball. I felt like we had open girls, but our heads were down and we were dribbling into traps, which played right into Shadyside’s hands.”
Shadyside used the pressure to break open what was a nip-and-tuck affair for almost the entire first half. An 8-0 run, which was fueled by a pair of buckets from senior Tory Hendershot and a goal by classmate Baylee Wach helped stake the Tigers to a 40-31 at half.
“We knew what we had to do (defensively),” Hendershot said. “Our defense is one of the biggest pluses about our team.”
Loudonville scored the first four points of the second half thanks to Corri Vermilya and her older sister, Grace, to shave the deficit to five.
“Loudonville is a really good team and (Vermilya) is a really good player, so we knew they were going to score, make runs and get their opportunities,” Gentile said. “The thing for us was how many opportunities could we get? Can we convert the turnovers? Can we make life miserable for them? Can we dictate the pace? I thought we did that and the girls were amazing.”
However, Shadyside responded with another 8-0 spurt, including six from Wach and an inside basket from junior Paige Gorby, who led the Orange with 20 points. The lead eventually swelled to 61-46 at the final stop.
Shadyside kept coming in the fourth. Again, Loudonville scored the first three points of the period, but the Belmont Countians scored nine of the next 13 to all but seal the deal as the margin grew to as many as 17 at 70-53.
Gorby’s 20 was backed by Wach’s 16. Sophomore Gentry Brown, who had the hot hand early, scored 10 of her 13 in the first half. Hendershot finished with 12 points, but her floor game included six rebounds, four assists and three steals. Senior Kamdyn Elerick finished with nine.
“Our message to the kids was ‘go have fun,” Gentile said. “Play together and play for each other. And really that’s been the biggest thing (in our success) is these girls are playing for each other. We wanted them to cut it loose, play with confidence and be aggressive. Plus, we hit shots.”
Loudonville was led by Grace Vermilya’s 26 and Corri Vermilya finished with 18.