Orrville Red Riders

Orrville’s defensive counter-punch drops Redbirds in the second half

When the number-two-seed Orrville Red Riders (21-3) and number-three-seed Loudonville Redbirds (22-2) met on Wednesday, Feb. 28 in the 2018 OHSAA girls basketball Div. III Wooster District Tournament semifinal at Wooster High School, something had to give. It was Orrville’s defense that prevailed in what became a slug fest that saw the Red Riders pull away in the second half on their way to a 65-55 victory.

Loudonville coach Tyler Bates and his Redbirds have a guard-dominant offense this season, led by junior Celeste Ryman, who can dish it, shoot it and defend it. Loudonville’s high-octane offense came into this contest averaging 75 points per game. Orrville coach Mark Alberts, Sr. enjoys seeing his team light it up from behind the arc, which has helped the Red Riders average 62 ppg, but Orrville has a not-so-secret weapon in junior Mikaila Carpenter, who can dominate the low post whenever she is utilized. With both teams wanting to get up and down the floor to maximize their offensive possessions as well as each team’s willingness to play physical and pressure the ball on defense, it fueled plenty of excitement coming into this game.

In the opening quarter of play, Loudonville packed the paint and shut Carpenter out of the scoring column while Ryman went to work to get the Birds offense going by draining a triple and slicing through the crowded key for two. However, Orrville junior guard Shadra Hamsher aggressively attacked the Loudonville defense, making two buckets of her own and shooting a perfect 4-of-4 from the charity stripe to score eight points in the quarter to pace the Red Riders on their way to a 19-14 advantage.

Ryman answered the bell to start the second quarter by leading the Redbirds on a 9-0 run, where she hit a textbook jab-step three-ball and then followed it up with two more slicing drives through the lane, followed by junior wing Steph Kline’s 3-pointer. Suddenly, Loudonville found themselves with a 23-19 lead and seemingly all of the momentum.

After an Orrville timeout Carpenter made a nice physical post move where she split two defenders and dropped in her first two points of the game to stop the Loudonville run. Unfortunately for Loudonville, Carpenter was just getting started as she continued to score six of the Riders’ next eight points, and her timing could not have been better. Hamsher’s aggression was deemed by the officials to be a bit much as she was whistled for her third foul just before halftime when Ryman stepped into the lane to take the charge and end the Red Riders’ run. When the dust settled, Orrville had reclaimed the lead and held a 33-28 advantage at the half.

After both teams received a much needed breather and a chance to make halftime adjustments, Ryman once again started the second half by attacking Orrville’s defense. She scored Loudonville’s first four points of the third quarter, triggering a 9-0 run when sophomore guard Emily Seboe stepped up and knocked down a jumper and three-pointer to put Loudonville back in business leading 37-33. Orrville took the blow and fought back. Again it was Carpenter establishing her domain as she answered with a put-back and then earned a three-point play the old-fashioned way when she drew the foul, got the and-one to fall and knocked down the resulting free throw to tie it up at 38 all.

With Hamsher picking up her fourth foul, Orrville needed someone to step up and carry the load, and fortunately for the Red Riders, junior guard Mariah Goodard answered the call. After a quiet first half on offense, the Riders’ sharp shooter sandwiched a field goal between two 3-pointers to go with another bucket from Carpenter and a huge 3-pointer from junior guard Sophie Flinner, which made it a 51-47 Rider advantage at the end of three quarters of play.

Alberts praised his coaching staff, who convinced him to make a change on defense midway through the third period to slow Ryman down. “Chris Emler and Mason Alberts kept bugging me to switch our defensive scheme to a box-and-one and face guard Ryman. Once we did, she didn’t score again the rest of the game. Ashley Stiffler (junior guard) might be tiny in stature, but she was flying around everywhere on the court tonight and did a great job of bringing the pressure in the second half. Lefty knows her role on this team, and when kids know their roles and do their role to the best of their ability, that is all anyone can ask.”

With Ryman in check, Orrville extended the lead to as much as nine in the fourth quarter and made enough from the charity stripe to keep the Redbirds from making another furious rally. Carpenter led all scorers in the final quarter with six points to secure the Rider victory at 65-55.

Alberts knew his team was in for a battle. “Loudonville is a great team. They may get a bad rap for not playing a great schedule, but I’ve seen them play this year, and they are a great team. Coach Bates does a great job, and those girls play hard. I’ve been known to tell our kids to play like their pants are on fire, and that is how their kids play. Two teams going at it like their pants are on fire should make for a great game, and that is what this was tonight. The thing that I am most happy and impressed with our girls was that they stayed with it. Loudonville would get ahead a little bit, and we could have folded, but we did not. Our girls had enough heart and gumption to get the lead back and eventually pull ahead for good.”

In this prize fight Loudonville was hoping for one last swing in the fourth quarter, but the Redbirds came up short. Bates summed it up best. “It just comes down to taking care of the basketball and making shots. We had spurts tonight, but when you go farther into the tournament against good competition like Orrville, you need to do it for four quarters. Basketball is a game of runs, and unfortunately they got the last one. We executed some sets really nicely in the second half against their defense. We just missed some shots. Give credit to Orrville. They made plays down the stretch.”

Bates is proud of his squad’s effort this season and is optimistic for the Redbirds to come back stronger. “This was a team that battled adversity all year and just kept coming back for more. We have one senior. We were playing today without two of our best guards (Nikki Weber and Courtney Hollinger are both injured), so we know the potential is there for us to have a good season and be back here next year. That being said, Chippewa is back. Orrville returns all three of their girls who scored in double digits tonight. Tuslaw will have a lot of their kids back, so the potential is there for us to be back here next year, and that is our mind-set right now, but it is going to take a lot of hard work. The good thing about our group of girls is that I know they will put in the work. There is no where to hide in this district. I believe whomever wins should be in good shape when they get to the regionals.”

Despite the cold start on offense, Carpenter’s big night produced another double-double with 21 points and 13 rebounds. Goodard stepped up when she was needed most, scoring 16 points and thieving six steals. Hamsher stuffed the stat sheet, despite her foul trouble, with 12 points, seven rebounds, five assists and four steals. Flinner chipped in eight points. In addition to Stifler’s shutdown defense, senior Emily Landis and junior A’Kerryia Hawkins both aided the Riders defensive pressure, which forced Loudonville into 20 turnovers. Landis finished with four points and six caroms while Hawkins had six steals, three assists and four boards.

Ryman finished with 16 points and 8 assists for the Redbirds. Emily Seboe scored 13 points including three triples and nine rebounds. Kline ended up with 11 points and nine rebounds for Loudonville. Though her outstanding junior campaign came to an end, Ryman made it one that will be difficult to forget. According to Bates, “There have been three kids in state history to have 500 points and 200 assists in a season. Celeste had 198 coming into tonight and added another eight to that total, so she becomes the fourth player in state history to do it. I did some research on it this week and checked with the OHSAA. That’s a pretty amazing accomplishment.”

Orrville, the Principals Athletic Conference champion, advances to play the number-one seed, Wayne County Athletic League champion Chippewa Chipps (24-0), on Saturday, March 3 in the Div. III Wooster District championship final at 1 p.m. Chippewa advanced to the final after knocking off number-five-seed Northwestern 59-39 in the early district semifinal game.

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