River Claims 2A Championship
Flannery paces Pilots with 27 points
ST. CLAIRSVILLE — River is not short on confidence.
When a roster is loaded with seniors and experience, there’s no need to hit any type of panic buttons at any point.
And that includes when the Pilots were down 11 early in the fourth quarter to top-seeded Shadyside on Saturday evening in the Class 2A portion of the Wheeling Hospital OVAC GIrls Basketball Championships at Ohio University-Eastern.
The Pilots proceeded to take the game over in the fourth quarter where they outscored the Tigers, 27-10, to go on for a hard-earned and cherished 55-49 win over the top-seeded Tigers.
“This is a huge win for these girls,” River coach Rick Isaly said. “This gives us a mountain of confidence to come back the way we did.”
The Pilots not only showed the grit, will and determination that comes with an experienced team that’s a defending conference champion. They also broke out their press, which they hadn’t showed for most of the game.
“We don’t press all the time,” Isaly said. “We got into a situation where we had to press. It rattled them to the point where we got steals and points. That press was the big issue because I felt their younger kids got rattled.”
Quite simply, Shadyside couldn’t handle the Pilots’ pressure. The Tigers were guilty of seven turnovers in the fourth quarter, many of which were of the live-ball variety and resulted in run-out opportunities for the Pilots.
Fueling those run outs was senior standout Lauren Flannery. The future Lake Erie College point guard scored eight of her 23 points in the fourth.
“She’s going to do that to teams,” Shadyside coach Serge Gentile said. “I thought we did the best we could on her, but there’s not going to be anyone who’s really going to stop her, especially when she gets in the open floor.”
She ignited a fourth quarter in which the Pilots scored 27 points after having 28 through the first three periods.
“Before the fourth quarter, I told the other seniors that this was our last chance and we had to leave it all out on the court,” Flannery, who was named the winner of the John Howell MVP Award, said.
Flannery ignited the fourth-quarter spurt on both ends. She got two layups and then — after a Pilots turnover — raced back down the court and blocked a shot. That ignited not only the droves of Pilots faithful, but also her teammates.
“Shadyside called a timeout and you could tell they were frustrated, so we knew we had to continue to take advantage of that,” Flannery said.
The initial River onslaught was a 13-2 run that knotted the game at 41-41 with 4:12 to play.
Shadyside took the lead back at 44-43 on an inside basket from Macy Coffland. The Tigers’ lead was short-lived, however. Alli Long and senior Candace Caldwell, who was big throughout with 15 points, scored on back-to-back possessions, putting River back in front, 47-44.
“We knew we had to get the lead, so we could then spread it out and get the ball into (Flannery’s) hands,” Isaly said. “Once we got the lead, I could see it in their eyes.”
The Tigers only got as close as one the rest of the way. The Pilots held the Tigers at bay thanks to a sharp 12 of 16 effort at the foul line in the fourth quarter.
Gentile, who watched his team finish the regular season with an 18-4 record, could really only shake his head.
“They diamond pressed us, we threw it to them and they shot layups,” Gentile said of the fourth quarter. “For whatever reason, we couldn’t get our wits about us. We were making bad passes and weren’t making the right plays. That led to them shooting layups.”
Caldwell, who Isaly said “came up huge,” finished with 15 points in support of Flannery. Senior Carsyn Reynolds added eight.
The Tigers, who led 19-15 at halftime, were led by Coffland’s 12 points.