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By Colin Harris | Staff Writer
Rootstown head coach Jay Airhart said he thought that his team could hang with top-seeded Elyria Catholic in Tuesday night's Barberton Division III District semifinal.
For two-and-a-half quarters, Airhart was right.
With one minute remaining in the third, Elyria Catholic began a 17-6 run that blew a narrow two-point lead into a more comfortable 13-point advantage. The double-digit deficit proved too big for Rootstown to overcome and eventually led to a 63-53 loss.
"We scouted (Elyria Catholic) three times, and we had access to a lot of their stats," Airhart said. "We really had a good idea of their personnel and what they liked to do."
Airhart was not far off as the Rovers' triangle-and-2 defense limited Elyria Catholic shooters Brittney McNamara and Karissa McGrath -- who combined for 70 3-pointers this season -- to just two triples and 23 total points.
But McGrath and forward Riley Schill instead did their damage inside the arc, scoring 11 points during that run -- all on 2-point field goals or foul shots.
McGrath finished with 16 points for Elyria Catholic, while Schill led her team in scoring with 17 points. Schill pulled down eight rebounds -- including seven offensive boards.
It was Schill's work on the glass that Airhart said did the most damage to his team.
"What we did not do was a good enough job keeping McGrath off of the glass," Airhart said. "She did a great job, especially with offensive rebounding, and they got too many second-chance opportunities."
Rootstown hung with the top-seeded team in the Barberton District throughout much of the night thanks to strong play from forward Casey Miracle.
Miracle finished with a double-double, scoring 24 points to lead all players while also pulling down 10 rebounds. The junior forward scored all seven of Rootstown's points in the first quarter as her teammates struggled to find the rim.
Teammate Jalynn Myers finished with 12 points as Rootstown's only other player in double figures. Myers scored eight points during the second quarter as Rootstown rallied from an early nine-point deficit.
"Casey just had a really huge game for us," Airhart said. "For that matter, Jalynn Myers also played really well the rest of the game."
Despite the loss, the Rovers did make their second consecutive trip to the district round of tournament play -- a point that Airhart said gives him optimism as his squad heads into the offseason.
"We graduate a couple of important seniors, but there is so much to build on here still," Airhart said. "This team has been (to district play) twice now and we're really excited to build on that in the offseason."
Elyria Catholic will face Mogadore in the district championship game Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at Barberton High School. The Wildcats edged Waterloo 56-54 in Tuesday's first game.