Mogadore knocks off Waterloo to advance to district finals

By Colin Harris | Staff Writer Published:

Call it luck, call it skill, call it whatever you'd like, but Mogadore is moving on.

The Wildcats withstood a furious rally in the final few minutes of regulation to defeat their Portage Trail Conference County Division rival Waterloo 56-54 in a Barberton Division III District semifinal contest.

Mogadore (12-13) advances to play top-seeded Elyria Catholic for the district championship Friday at 7:30 p.m. at Barberton High School. The Panthers defeated Rootstown 63-53 in Tuesday's second game of the semifinal doubleheader.

Waterloo closes its season with a 13-11 record.

With Mogadore ahead by double-digits over the Vikings in the fourth quarter Tuesday night, Waterloo chipped away at the gap until it found itself trailing by just one point with around a minute to go in regulation.

Waterloo's Jamie Willis and Laurin Wareham each knocked down 3-pointers during the rally as the Vikings used a 7-0 run to pull within striking distance.

With a minute remaining in regulation, Willis hit 1-of-2 foul shots to cut Mogadore's lead to 52-51. Mogadore's Ashley Barker responded on the other end of the court, knocking down a shot to push the lead back out to three.

Vikings senior forward Megan Forney brought the lead back to two with a 1-for-2 trip to the foul line, giving Mogadore possession back with around 40 seconds left on the clock.

The Wildcats worked the ball down the court and nearly lost possession on two occasions before a foul put forward Naomi Pollock at the line, where she hit both attempts to give Mogadore a four-point lead with 15.1 seconds remaining.

Blaire Weaver put in a layup on the other end to get Waterloo back to two points with 7.2 seconds left, but the Vikings were unable to foul as time -- and their season -- ticked away.

Mogadore head coach Tom Pollock said that the final half-minute or so of play -- which included some near-turnovers and long rebounds -- wasn't exactly part of the plan.

"We held on because the ball bounced our way I guess," coach Pollock joked. "Call it luck or call it fate, but we'll take it either way."

The story of the game was momentum swings as it was Mogadore that eliminated a major deficit by erasing Waterloo's eight-point lead midway through the second quarter.

After Willis canned a 3-pointer to put her team up 21-13, Mogadore closed the half with a 7-1 run to go into the third quarter down 22-20.

Tom Pollock said that his message to his team at the half was a simple one.

"I told our girls they were the luckiest team in America to only be down two points," he said. "But I told them to just relax and just take advantage of that in the second half."

And Mogadore did just that with a 24-17 third quarter that built the lead it would desperately cling to down the stretch.

Grace Reilly scored 12 points -- including two 3-pointers -- in the third quarter, while Naomi Pollock scored eight and Barker added four in the run that built Mogadore's lead.

The trio of Barker, Reilly and Naomi Pollock scored all but five of Mogadore's points on the night, with Barker's 21 leading the way.

"We need those three to score and play their roles in the offense," coach Pollock said.

Willis finished her career at Waterloo with an 18-point effort. The Waterloo senior hit on a game-high five 3-pointers to lead all shooters. Fellow senior Megan Forney added 17 points and 12 rebounds in what was also her final game in a Waterloo jersey.

Vikings head coach Dave Hamilton said that the loss was difficult to swallow, but that his team was beaten by a solid squad.

"Mogadore hit some shots that we didn't expect them to hit, but hats off to them because they played hard," Hamilton said. "That momentum they built in the second quarter carried over for them and we didn't do a good enough job closing out on their shooters."

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