By A.J. Atkinson | Correspondent
Mogadore built a 15-point halftime lead and held off a strong second-half comeback to defeat Elyria Catholic 50-39 in the Barberton Division III District Final on Friday at Barberton High School.
The Wildcats' defense provided an excellent momentum boost in the first half, forcing the Panthers to commit 11 turnovers. Mogadore used Elyria Catholic's sloppy play to pull ahead, finishing the first half with a 25-10 lead.
The Panthers exited the first half with only one field goal. The other six points came from the free-throw line. Elyria Catholic had good looks, but many of its shots failed to go in.
The Panthers' luck seemed to change following halftime. Elyria Catholic's Jose Carandang started the second half with two 3-pointers, and Brittany McNamara followed with a 3-pointer of her own to narrow Mogadore's lead to six.
However, that was as close as Mogadore would let it get as the Panthers' tighter defensive pressure sent the Wildcats to the free-throw line too often. The Wildcats cashed in, hitting 22-of-27 free-throws to maintain control of the contest.
Mogadore continued to pull away as Elyria Catholic failed to hit enough desperation 3-pointers to overcome its poor first half, allowing the Wildcats to earn their first Division III district title and coach Tim Pollock's first district championship.
"I told Elyria's coach after the game that if we played two minutes more, we may be on the other side of things," Pollock said as his team cut the nets in the background.
Mogadore advances to the Cuyahoga Falls Division III Regional, and will take on either Beachwood or Gilmour Academy in the semifinals on Wednesday at 6:15 p.m.
Pollock said looking back over the past season, he didn't think Mogadore would be district champions.
"We started the season poor and had lots of injuries," Pollock said. "I'm proud of how far we've come."