The following recap was written by Todd Shapiro of The Elyria Chronicle-Telegram.
ELYRIA — Only a few tears were shed and the celebration was brief Monday (Feb. 27) following the Division II district semifinal between top-seeded Elyria Catholic and No. 4 Keystone.
Both teams had already left their hearts, souls and emotions on the court in the 40 minutes leading up to the final buzzer.
In a game that exceeded the lofty pregame expectations, the Panthers got 14 points each from seniors Nora Hopkins and Sam Filiaggi and defeated Keystone 45-40 in double overtime.
“I thought it was a total team effort but defensively is where it all happened,” Panthers coach Eric Rothgery said. “We’ve got two senior leaders, captains who have been playing varsity basketball their whole careers who both stepped up and had big games tonight. They handled the pressure well.”
Wildcats senior McKenah Peters led all scorers with 18 points but Elyria Catholic double-teamed and, on a few occasions, triple-teamed her to take away any chances for an easy look at the basket.
After being held to just four points in the second quarter as Keystone took a 26-20 halftime lead, Elyria Catholic ratcheted up its defensive intensity in the second half and extended its win streak to 16, dating to Dec. 28.
The Panthers (23-2) held Keystone scoreless for the first 9:37 of the second half until Peters drove the lane, got fouled and completed a conventional three-point play to give the Wildcats a 29-28 lead.
“In the second half we were boxing out more and keeping their posts out of the key,” Filiaggi said. “When we were able to take McKenah out of her rhythm we felt like it took the rest of their team out of their rhythm, too. It was a hard-fought game between both teams. I’m just glad we survived and can advance in this tournament.”
Keystone (20-4) trailed by three late in the fourth quarter when Peters pulled up and hit a three-pointer from well beyond the line to tie the game at 34.
After a pair of Filiaggi free throws with 20.6 seconds left put the Panthers back in front, the Wildcats needed a miracle to extend the game and senior Sammie Stefan answered the prayers with a six-foot jumper after grabbing an offensive rebound with 1.3 seconds left to send the game into overtime.
“I thought our girls played their hearts out tonight,” Keystone coach Scott Terry said. “These seniors have had a great career. Three conference championships, they got a sectional championship and they had a chance to advance to the district finals but they just fell a little bit short. We didn’t lose this basketball game because of effort. I thought we [executed] our game plan. It was just a matter of we needed a couple more of our shots to fall and a couple of theirs not to go in.”
Junior Haley Sprouse had 13 points for Keystone.
Peters ended her illustrious high school career with 1,907 points, becoming the first Lorain County girl to eclipse 1,900.
After a scoreless first overtime, Peters scored the final points of her career on a pair of free throws with 1:34 left in double overtime to cut the Panthers’ lead to 42-40. Elyria Catholic made three free throws in the final 24 seconds to clinch the win.
It will be a rematch of last year’s district final Thursday (March 2) at 7:00 p.m. when Elyria Catholic faces Padua. The Bruins defeated Bay 64-46 in Monday’s other semifinal.
Whenever Elyria Catholic needed a big basket, Hopkins rose to the occasion.
She scored eight first quarter points to help the Panthers end the period on a 13-4 run. Her three-pointer in the third quarter tied the game at 26. Another three-pointer gave Elyria Catholic a three-point lead with 3:30 left in regulation.
“The game was a little nerve-wracking to be honest, but I was always confident my team could pull through,” Hopkins said. “We all want to advance and make it to state so we had to lift each other up to get the win.”
Elyria Catholic 45, Keystone 40 (2OT)
KEYSTONE (40): Jena Copley 1-0-2, Haley Sprouse 5-1-13, Taylor Stefan 0-3-3, Sammie Stefan 2-0-4, McKenah Peters 5-5-18. Totals 13-9-40.
ELYRIA CATHOLIC (45): Faith Williams 2-1-5, Sam Filiaggi 4-5-14, Nora Hopkins 5-0-14, Abby Winnen 1-2-4, Megan Scheibelhut 0-2-2, Ally Winnen 3-0-6. Totals 15-10-45.