When the name of the game is scoring points if a team hopes to win in basketball, it can be devastating when a squad goes an entire quarter without scoring.
For the second straight game, the West Holmes Lady Knights held its opponent to a big old goose egg in a quarter, and West Holmes used that second period momentum to grab a 35-26 win over Cambridge (19-6) to advance to the Div. III District Final tilt against No. 3 seed Tri-Valley Saturday, March 4 at Indian Valley High School.
While shutting down John Glenn (11-13) in the Sectional Final was something special, this time the defensive gem came against a team that boasted 19 wins. “That’s a 19-win team and we came out and did a nice job of doing what we do best,” said West Holmes coach Lisa Ogi. “We were able to shut out a good team for an entire quarter and follow it up with a four-point quarter, and that just comes from a commitment to working on the defensive end.”
The game did not start on a good note. The Lady Knights produced four empty possessions to begin the contest and high-scoring Lilly Ritz came out firing on all cylinders, scoring Cambridge’s first eight points to put West Holmes in a hole. “She’s a gifted player, and she came out and just started killing us, but the problem was we didn’t do anything to get her out of her comfort zone. It was all too easy. But once we kind of settled in and got our feet under us, we got down to challenging her more and forcing her to take tougher shots.”
However, after that early eight-point Ritz roll, it was all West Holmes. Trailing 10-6 through the first quarter, the Lady Knights went to work and completely stymied the Bobcats, who struggled to even get shots off in the second stanza. That allowed West Holmes to push out to a 12-10 lead, which could have been even greater if West Holmes (20-4) could have gotten its offense going.
However, the scoreless run extended well into the third period, and it was there that West Holmes built it lead to double figures. “I think we kind of frustrated them, and forced them into some fouls and bad plays,” Ogi said. Kacie Leppla split two free throws to begin the third period, and then the next trip down the floor got loose inside, was fouled and nailed both charity tosses for a 15-10 lead. Kylie Leppla then scored on a nice drive inside to make it 17-10 before West Holmes got another stop and Celeste Ryman buried her third 3-pointer of the game for a 20-10 lead.
The 14-0 run was finally put to rest when Lilly Ritz scored to make it 20-12, and after Allyssa ball scored inside to trim the lead to six at 20-14, the Lady Knights responded with two Kylie Leppla free throws and two more from Ryman. Meanwhile, the high-scoring Ritz had picked up her third and fourth fouls in short order, and on a team that basically went six players all night, that was trouble.
Sam Hall’s drive pushed the West Holmes lead to 26-14 to begin the fourth period. That lead grew to 30-17, West Holmes’ largest lead of the night, on the strength of Kylie Leppla and Ryman, who scored enough to keep the Bobcats at bay. Ryman hit a free throw and Kylie Leppla knocked down a pair of charity tosses late to help ice this win away and give Coach Ogi her ninth 20-win season in 11 years of coaching at West Holmes.
The victory was a microcosm of what this season has been for West Holmes. Ogi said scoring is at a premium for them, but they have been able to keep the scores very low, making the games seem ugly at times, but that is what happens when a team plays slow tempo ball and in-your-face half-court defense on the other end. “That just means I have coached some really great kids,” Ogi said. ‘These are kids who believe in what we are doing and have bought into the idea of playing defense and playing team basketball. I really believe that these past few games we have beaten teams that are right on the same playing level that we are on. I told the girls, it comes down to who wants to give more, who wants to work harder and play the team game and do all of those little things that make the difference. That is what we have done this year to be successful.”
As she did against John Glenn, Ryman came off the bench to ignite West Holmes, leading the scoring parade with 14 points. Kylie Leppla added 10 points while Hall and Kacie Leppla chipped in with six and five points, respectively. Ritz led Cambridge with a game-high 15 points.
But this was not about scoring points as much as it was about not allowing them, a 2017 Lady Knights trademark. “We know we aren’t going to score a lot of points,” Ogi said. “We have always prided ourselves in playing great defense, but this year we don’t have any other choice. That is exceptionally important.”
Statistically, the game looked extremely close, but this was truly an odd game in that the number of shots taken was incredibly low. West Holmes attempted just 18 action shots, making nine, while the Bobcats went 9-of-22 from the floor. The biggest difference was at the free throw line, where West Holmes made 14-of-18 while Cambridge connected on just 7-of-13.
Seeing so few shots attempted led to a dearth of rebounds. Hall and Kacie Leppla each collected four to pace the Lady Knights, while Cambridge collected a paltry six rebounds all night.