PERRY TWP. _ As their team was in the process of pulling away from Leetonia in the Massillon Perry Division IV regional semifinals Thursday, the Mogadore student section began chanting sarcastically across the way at the Leetonia following, "Where's Your Varsity?"
That was perhaps a bit extreme, but it was a good indication of how the Wildcats were playing during the third quarter of their eventual 68-46 victory over the Bears.
Now for the first time since 1986, Mogadore will be playing in a regional title game. That season the Wildcats were defeated by Buckeye Central in the championship game. Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at the Perry High School Fieldhouse, Mogadore will try to reverse its fortunes when it goes up against North Robinson Colonel Crawford _ an 80-31 victor over Kirtland.
"I think they (Mogadore players) are kind of starting to get caught up in the tournament," said Mogadore coach George Tompkins, referring to the magnitude of the state playoffs. "I try to tell them from my own experiences. It's hard to explain it. Every time I try, I get teary-eyed."
With Michelle and Tiffany Tompkins each drilling three 3-pointers apiece in the opening 16 minutes, Mogadore, 22-3 and winners of 21 straight games, took a 38-28 lead at the half.
In the beginning of the second half, though, the Mogadore pressure, which hadn't been real effective in the first half, surfaced once again, as did Wildcat steals (17 for the game) and easy baskets. Scoring the final 13 points of the third quarter, Mogadore took an insurmountable 55-33 advantage to the fourth quarter.
"Their quickness was probably the key to the game," said Leetonia coach David Kornbau. "They were just way too quick for us.
"I thought in the third quarter they started taking it to us physically. We really needed to go to the basket a little bit more than we were."
Tiffany Tompkins led the Wildcats with 19 points, while older sister, Michelle, was right behind with 17. Jen Lutz, playing well inside against a taller Bears team featuring a pair of 6-foot-1 players, added 13. She also held Leetonia's top player _ 6-1 senior Katie Stambaugh _ to nine points.
"That's the key to our game. We have an inside and outside game," said Michelle Tompkins. "When we shoot outside, they tend to come out on us more. Then we look to pound it in. And then they'll back up and we'll look to shoot outside again _ back-and-forth."
Tiffany Tompkins' 3 midway into the first quarter put the Wildcats ahead 12-4. However, Leetonia (16-8) countered with six straight points and was still within 20-16 after one period.
"We started out slow. I don't know if it was the jitters or what," said George Tompkins.
Tompkins said his defense wasn't nearly as effective as it was in the second half because it did not funnel the predominantly right-handed Bears to the left. Instead, Leetonia was able to get into the frontcourt relatively easy.
"Actually, we were working too hard," said George Tompkins. "In the second half, we slowed down and forced them to use their left hands."
Erin Perkins paced the Bears with 20 points and was the only Leetonia player in double figures.
MASSILLON PERRY DIVISION IV REGIONAL
Mogadore 68, Leetonia 46
(At Perry Fieldhouse)
LEETONIA (46) _ Jessica Durham 3 0-2 6; Ashley Browne 0 0-0 0; Mandy Mancuso 1 0-0 2; Beth Anne Kiliany 0 0-0 0; Tiffany Smith 3 0-0 6; Kelly Buck 0 0-1 0; Erin Perkins 8 1-4 20; Katie Stambaugh 4 1-2 9; Amanda Adamson 1 0-0 3; Jackie Durham 0 0-0 0; Allison Bach 0 0-0 0. Totals 20 2-9 46.
MOGADORE (68) _Michelle Tompkins 7 0-0 17; Beth Lyons 1 1-2 3; Danielle Pollock 0 0-0 0; Dana Peterhoff 1 3-4 5; Kristy Wallace 1 0-1 2; Shanna Tabatcher 2 2-2 6; Tiffany Tompkins 8 0-0 19; Jen McHood 0 1-2 1; Jen Lutz 5 3-4 13; Tiffany DeVaughn 1 0-0 2; Sarah Guban 0-0 0; Kelly Finlaw 0 0-0 0. Totals 26 10-15 68.
LEETONIA 16 12 5 13 _ 46
MOGADORE 20 18 17 13 _ 68
Three-point goals _ Leetonia (4): Perkins 3, Adamson 1. Mogadore (6): Michelle Tompkins 3, Tiffany Tompkins 3.
Total Fouls _ Mogadore, 13-12.
Total Rebounds _ 36-36.