Chippewa clips Loudonville, 51-50, to earn 5th straight District title

The more things change, the more they stay the same. The third-seeded Loudonville Redbirds (20-5) and the top-seeded Chippewa Chipps (23-1) met in the 2019 Div. III girls basketball Wooster District final at Wooster High School on Saturday, March 3. Loudonville was looking to leverage three very talented 1,000 point career scorers to break through to the Regional level of the tournament, but the Lady Chipps have a super-star 1,000 point scorer of their own named Celina Koncz and Chippewa’s defense clipped the Redbird offense in the waning moments of regulation to thwart Loudonville’s upset bid. For the fifth straight season, Chippewa secured a District title, 51-50.

Coach Denny Schrock has seen a lot of playoff basketball during his tenure at the helm for the Lady Chipps program and is happy to escape with the nail-biting win. “We knew it was going to be a tough match up. They have three girls that have scored 1,000 career points and we have a girl who has scored 1,000 points. Celina is pretty special. We put the ball in her hands a lot today and I thought if we go down then we go down with the ball in her hands.”

Schrock was also pleased with the Lady Chipps on-ball pressure, “We defended well, Bailey Clark obviously made some nice defensive stops. I thought we held them in check pretty much but hey, they were going to score because Weber and Ryman are great players. We missed a few free-throws that we usually make in the end but Clark made the one that counted.”

Loudonville head coach Tyler Bates praised his team’s effort, “Our girls came out ready to play and they played hard. We have to play four quarters against a great team like Chippewa. They are well coached and I know that Coach Schrock challenged his seniors at halftime. Celina Koncz is a great player. To give ourselves a chance there at the end just shows what kind of kids we have, they have a lot of heart.”

Bates knew his team needed to focus on Koncz and limiting her touches near the basket, “She’s tough. We wanted to try and not let her catch it near the rim. I thought in the first half we did a really good job with that. The second half, she caught the ball under the hoop a few times early and got some confidence. When she saw the ball go in the hoop there to start the third quarter, that wasn’t good for us at all because she started feeling it a little bit, and she’s just a special player. She has a very bright future. To be able to handle the ball and defend guards at that size is just special. You don’t see that too much around Wayne County and that’s why she is one of the WCAL’s best players ever.”

It was an emotional end to another successful season for Loudonville, one that saw the Redbirds go undefeated in the Mid-Buckeye Conference and winning 20 games overall. Bates was emotional talking about his group of seniors, “It’s a very special group. I wasn’t really ready to be done today. My seniors really mean a lot to me and our program. I’m going to miss them a lot. We have a good group of underclassmen coming back that have put in a lot of work, so I think the future of Loudonville basketball is very bright and our seniors had a lot to do with that. They really were great role models for our younger kids, not just at the high school level but the junior high and youth levels as well. Even though they aren’t going to be playing another game for us, they’re going to be with us moving forward, that’s for sure.”

Seniors Celeste Ryman and Nikki Weber, along with junior Emily Seboe have all scored more than 1,000 points in their high school careers and the triumvirate make up the high-octane that fuels Loudonville’s offense. All three players were key to Loudonville’s early success on Saturday as the Redbirds opened the game pushing the ball up the court and attacking the basket behind the sharp shooting from Ryman who totaled eight points in the opening quarter, including two three-pointers to help give the Redbirds a 12-8 advantage at the end of the first period.

Seboe’s triple midway through the second quarter helped push the Loudonville lead to five points. Chippewa answered with a two point basket of their own, but the Redbirds’ Emma Hinkle knocked down a three-pointer from the corner to give Loudonville a 21-15 lead with 3:35 left in the second quarter.

Staring down the very real possibility of giving up another Loudonville shot from behind the arc and potentially finding themselves down by double-digits at the half, Chippewa’s defensive pressure finally created a turnover in the back-court and Koncz collected the loose ball and took it all the way for an easy layup to cut Loudonville’s lead to five at the intermission.

With his team trailing at the intermission, Schrock knew his team had to go all in with their two-time Wayne County Athletic League Most Valuable Player, “I was glad we were only down five points at halftime, at the start of the third quarter, I told Celina to take the game over. Big time players take the game over and she did.”

Heeding her coach’s advice, Koncz went on to score 19 of her game-high 25 points in the second half, including 10 points in the third quarter to help knot the score up between both teams at 36-36 with one quarter remaining to play.

Koncz continued her attack to the heart of the Redbird defense in the fourth quarter, helping Chippewa go on an 8-0 scoring run. Loudonville finally stopped the run, with Ryman and Weber doing their best to help Loudonville erase the deficit.

With four minutes remaining, Weber drained two freebies from the charity stripe to help the Redbirds trail by just three points, 46-43. Weber’s remarkable effort in the closing period produced 9 of her 17 points for the game. It seemed like Loudonville had turned the momentum in their favor, but Chippewa’s Bailee Ferrell hit a clutch three-pointer to give Chippewa a five point buffer, 50-45, with 3:03 remaining on the clock.

Loudonville had their chances down the stretch. Ryman drew a foul on the Redbirds next possession but missed both free-throw attempts, but Chippewa failed to capitalize on the misses by turning the ball over and sending Weber back to toe the line where she calmly made both FTs to pull the Redbirds within three of the lead, 50-47, with 35 seconds left in regulation.

With Loudonville forced to foul, Chippewa uncharacteristically missed three straight foul shot attempts, but Loudonville failed to convert on the miscues. Ryman had two great looks to tie the game in the final 30 seconds of action but her signature step back three-point attempt from the left side of the arc ricocheted off the rim into the hands of Bailey Clark who was fouled.

Clark hit one of two free-throw attempts to give Chippewa a four-point lead with less than five seconds remaining to secure a fifth straight District championship for the Lady Chipps. Weber’s heave from half-court as time expired banked off the glass and through the basket to make it a 51-50 final.

Loudonville’s head coach Tyler Bates had no regrets with the final looks the Redbirds had to potentially tie the game, “I’ve heard the saying, ‘Dance with who brought you’. The past two years we’ve won a lot of games with Celeste making that shot. I don’t think any kid on our team doubts that Celeste is going to make that shot. She got two good looks at it, and if we had a third look, I would call that same play and I think she would knock it down that time. That’s the look we want with her taking that shot. I’ve seen her make a hundred of those in games the past two years. it just didn’t drop this time.”

Celeste Ryman finished her Loudonville career leading the Redbirds in scoring with 18 points, while Nikki Weber poured it on in the final period to end up with 17 points. Emily Seboe finished with seven points. Loudonville shot 15 of 39 from the field (38%), including 9 of 27 from behind the arc (33%). The Redbirds made 11 of 16 FTs (69%).

Chippewa was led by Koncz’s game-high 25 points. Senior guard Bailee Ferrell finished with nine points, connecting on three triples from behind the arc. Sophomore Elena Gartrell scored six points and senior guard Bailey Clark finished with five points, none bigger than her final made free-throw. The Lady Chipps made 18 of 42 shot attempts from the floor (43%), including 6 of 18 from behind the arc (33%), while knocking down 9 of 13 foul shots (69%).

The Lady Chipps will play in the Division III Regional semifinal on Wednesday, March 6 at 6:15 P.M. against the Warren Champion Golden Flashes (20-5) at Cuyahoga Falls High School. Champion defeated All-American Conference rival Leavittsburg LaBrae (16-8) 56-27 to earn the Lakeview District title.

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