In the middle of a sea of blue and red from the colorful spirit gear worn by each team’s faithful fanatics, the number-two-seed Orrville Red Riders (21-4) and the undefeated number-one-seed Chippewa Chipps (25-0) met in the turbulent waters of the Div. III girls basketball Wooster District finals at Wooster High School’s gymnasium. The Lady Chipps’ defense sparked their offense in route to Chippewa winning another district championship, 50-33.
Coach Denny Schrock has long held the helm for the Lady Chipps program and is happy to move on. “We knew it was going to be tough, but we played pretty good defense. You cannot rest against a Mark Alberts-coached team because his teams can come back real quick. We had to keep the pressure on them as best as we could. We had to run, and we were able to do those two things, which helped get us the lead in the second half. I know that Orrville is going to be back in this game next year, and I would hope that if we can get back here, it will be another great game.”
Orrville has a Hall of Fame coach of their own, Mark Alberts, who knew it was going to be a tough challenge for his Lady Riders as they prepared to face a daunting Chippewa defense. “We knew going in that we had to limit our turnovers. We had 11 at halftime. I thought we could afford 15 for the game, but if it became 20 or more, we would be hurting in a possession game where you have to be efficient. We were not efficient.”
The Riders handed the ball over a total of 18 times for the game. Alberts said, “We were shooting 4-of-24 (17 percent) at the half with 13 points. We didn’t shoot well, but Chippewa has a lot to do with that. They are a very good defensive team.”
In an opening quarter of play that saw both teams trying to get up and down the floor, it was apparent pretty quickly that defense would rule the day as the Chipps held a slim 6-4 lead at the end of the quarter. Orrville’s zone held its own, but it was Chippewa’s length and athleticism that allowed them to relentlessly trap all over the floor. Neither offense could get going, and Chippewa had the 18-6 advantage at the half.
When Orrville isn’t hitting from the outside, it allows teams to collapse the middle of the key, and the Chipps physical defense held junior post Mikaila Carpenter to just two points in the first half. The Red Riders shot just 14-of-53 from the field (26 percent), sinking just 3-of-20 (15 percent) from behind the arc, allowing the Chipps to pack the paint and camp on Carpenter. Orrville’s ability to knock down the deep ball never materialized. Orrville snagged 27 rebounds in the first half but were limited to just 15 in the second half as Chippewa’s offense started making shots and snagging second-chance opportunities, converting them into points. The Chipps pushed their lead to 34-20 at the end of the third quarter and never looked back.
Orrville made a brief run behind Carpenter’s 12 points in the second half and a couple of timely 3-pointers from junior Mariah Goodard, but Chippewa’s defense held, and the Chipp offense got going with their inside-out game near the end of the third quarter and beginning of the fourth. Junior center Grace Lindquist actively worked her tail off to receive the post pass, and when Orrville’s defense collapsed, she would kick it to an open teammate. More often than not, it was senior guard Samantha Storad who would benefit from the ball movement as she led all players with five daggers from behind the arc. The Chipps would eventually push their lead to double digits in the second half, and Orrville’s offensive output just couldn’t keep up.
Alberts said, “We needed to make stops when they went on that run, and we didn’t get enough of them. We got it back within six points at one point, but it wasn’t enough.”
The Riders’ ship was finally sunk, 50-33.
Chippewa was led by Lindquist, who scored 17 points and grabbed seven rebounds. Storad finished with 16 points with five from behind the arc. Senior Katie Richardson cleaned the glass to the tune of 11 boards, and sophomore Celina Koncz had seven points.
For Orrville, only four players cracked the scoring column. Carpenter finished her fine season with another double-double. She finished strong with 14 points on 6-of-18 shooting (33 percent) and 11 boards to go with three steals. Junior Shadra Hamsher finished with eight points on 4-of-7 shooting with five rebounds, five assists and three steals. Junior Mariah Goodard had eight points on 3-of-17 shooting and added seven rebounds with two steals. Junior Sophie Flinner finished with three points.
Alberts summed up the Riders’ season. “We had a great year. We won the PAC title and made it to the district finals. I feel pretty good about that, but you don’t want to see it end. Only one team it ends great for, and that is the last team standing in Columbus, but you always want to see how far in the tournament you can go. We knew it was going to be tough, but we didn’t handle their pressure as well as I had hoped. They did a nice job trapping and forcing our kids to pass it to places they knew they shouldn’t. Coach Schrock has a great team. They are well coached and had our number today.”
The Riders will find it hard to say goodbye to their seniors, but it will present opportunities for others to step up next year.
Alberts said, “Our seniors showed a lot of leadership this year. They were really good role models for our younger kids. We are going to miss the girls who are graduating, but we have a bunch of these kids coming back next season. We are going to have to work to get to this point again, but Chippewa has a good number of girls coming back too, so it’s not going to be easy.”
With the win, Chippewa moves on to Wednesday’s regional semifinal at Cuyahoga Falls High School, where the Chipps will face South Range at 6:15 p.m.