By Jim Manion | Correspondent
The Ravenna girls basketball team suffered a second-half collapse Saturday of a 23-point lead that resulted in an unexpected early exit from the Austintown Division II Sectional Tournament. Scoring only eight points in the second half, Ravenna went down 41-37 to Poland Seminary in a contest that was decided in the final minute of play.
Ravenna had a drought in the third quarter that saw the Ravens score the first basket of the second half but then miss everything until the final minute when they scored their second and only other basket of the quarter. The final stanza was almost a duplicate with the Ravens turning the ball over eight times.
While Ravenna couldn't find the basket, Poland continued to trim away at the double-digit margin, highlighted by four 3-pointers by Kasie Serich and the inside moves of forward Aleah Hughes, who continually went to the basket. She finished the afternoon with a team-leading 19 points while Serich accounted for 12.
"That was really tough," said a disappointed Ravenna head coach Sonny Tilden. "Tough for the whole team but really tough on our three seniors (Courtney O'Donnell, Moe Moe Smith and Kaiara Jones) to finish like that. It really reminded me of the Norton game when we let a lead get away."
The first half was a complete opposite of the second 16 minutes as Ravenna could do nothing wrong and Poland turned over the ball because of Ravenna's high-intensity full-court press.
Jalynn Starks and Whitney Jones provided the first-quarter offense as the Ravens pushed to a 15-5 first-quarter lead. Ravenna converted four Bulldog turnovers in the first quarter into points. Starks converted a steal into a bucket and then hit a 3-pointer to give her team a 9-0 lead at the four-minute mark of the first stanza. Jones closed out the quarter with a pair of buckets in the paint.
Fallon Schwab-Davis scored a pair of baskets early in the second quarter to help push the Ravenna lead to 21-5, and then O'Donnell came off the bench to fire up a pair of 3s in less than 20 seconds. The two treys upped the margin to 29-6 at the four-minute mark of the second quarter for the biggest lead of the game. Hughes scored 11 of the Bulldogs' 13 points in the first half as the Ravens went into the locker room at the half with a 29-13 lead.
Starks, who led the Ravens in scoring with nine points, hit the first bucket of the second half, but then it was like someone chained up the rim from that point. After almost seven minutes, Whitney Jones hit a basket with 1:01 remaining in the quarter to give the Ravens a nine-point advantage, 33-24.
Serich hit her first 3 of the game early in the third quarter and then drilled back-to-back 3s, the second one at the buzzer to cut the Bulldogs' deficit to six entering the final quarter, 33-27. At the four-minute mark of the fourth quarter, Serich hit another 3 to bring her team to within a point.
A driving layup by Hughes with 3:20 on the game clock gave Poland its first lead at 38-37. That lead would hold up as Ravenna failed to score in the final two minutes despite several opportunities.
Poland would notch the final three points from the charity line as the Ravens fouled late in the game. Ravenna did not step to the charity line for the entire game.
"We knew Serich could hit those shots and we knew Hughes was a good post player," said Tilden. "We had scouted them but we just couldn't make anything. We had our chances. Courtney (O'Donnell) had a good look and got off a good shot on our last shot ... it rimmed out and I felt I wanted her to take that shot. She had made a couple 3s early."
The Ravens finish the season 17-7 and Tilden reflected on his team.
"You know, I don't think anyone expected us to do what we did this year," he said. "We are young and lost our top seven players from last year. We were right there in the league and came close to winning it again. We have a lot of girls coming back and we will be all right next year but it's tough right now."