Shamrocks face Wahoo Neumann at 9 a.m. Saturday
COLUMBUS – After Thursday’s win over Wahoo, Scotus Central Catholic junior Bailey Lehr said it would be “awesome” to hand Mitchell its only loss of the season in the semifinals of the Class C-1 girls state basketball tournament.
When the Shamrocks got done putting the finishing touches on a 43-26 victory over the top-ranked Tigers (27-1) on Friday, senior Maggie Feehan confirmed that.
“It feels so awesome. We’ve been working so hard for this,” Feehan said.
Lehr, however, had a different word for the feeling.
“It was fantastic,” she said.
For the second straight day, Scotus rolled to a 17-point win over one of the best teams in Class C-1, holding the Tigers to their fewest points of the season.
The Shamrocks’ reward?
A rematch with Wahoo Neumann at 9 a.m. Saturday for the state title. The Cavaliers beat Scotus 43-40 on a buzzer beater in January.
Mitchell’s closest game this season was an 8-point win over Bridgeport. The Shamrocks didn’t break that streak, putting the Tigers away with a 21-0 run in the first half.
“For us to get ahead and get a good start, we had to put a stop on them and we did,” Lehr said. “We really pinched on (Keyana Wilfred) because she’s one of their better players. We stopped her and then we made a run.”
Wilfred came into the game averaging more than 20 points per game. The Shamrocks held her to just six points.
“We really limited her touches,” Scotus head coach Jarrod Ridder said. “When she did (touch the ball) we had a lot of people around her and made it difficult for her to catch and make a move.”
Jori Peters, who led the Tigers with a team-best 11 points, knocked down an early 3-pointer to give Mitchell its only lead of the game, 3-1.
The Shamrocks took control from there.
Courtney Kosch, who’s seeing extended minutes due to Grace Odbert’s knee injury, scored on a breakaway layup and Marika Spencer added back-to-back buckets after having her first two shot’s blocked by the 6-foot-2 Wilfred, to give Scotus a 10-3 lead.
“She’s going to (Nebraska) to throw so you know she’s strong. She just uses her strength really well. She can finish through those bigger players,” Ridder said of Spencer, who finished with seven points.
Maggie Feehan continued her strong state tournament with five first-quarter points and Kosch capped the opening period with a 3-pointer to give the Shamrocks a 16-3 lead.
“That’s what we wanted to do,” said Feehan, who finished with a game-high 13 points. “They’re ranked No. 1 and we just wanted to go and prove that we can go play with them and beat them.”
Back-to-back 3-pointers from Grace Wickham and Feehan to open the second quarter capped the 21-0 run and gave Scotus a 22-3 lead.
Mitchell finally got into an offensive rhythm, scoring the next eight points to cut the deficit to 22-11 and Scotus carried that 11-point advantage into the half, leading 26-15.
The Tigers got the game back to single digits early in the third quarter, forcing a timeout by Ridder with the Shamrocks leading 30-22. The head coach had a simple message for his team.
“It was just go be aggressive and showcase your abilities,” he said. “Our kids are super composed and responded really well.”
Scotus scored the last four points of the quarter on a pair of baskets by Lehr, who added 11 points, and led 34-22 going into the fourth quarter.
From there, the Shamocks just had to play its game.
“This is our time to shine and we just have to keep pushing,” Lehr said. “There’s no going back. We just have to finish it here and now.”
A 6-0 run midway through the fourth quarter put Scotus up 43-26 to seal the win.
Now, the Shamrocks get a second chance at Neumann.
“We are vey excited,” Lehr said of the opportunity.
Scotus is playing with as much confidence as anyone in the state, riding a nine-game winning streak and it’s not going to change its approach now.
“We’ve got a lot of confidence, but we know it’s all in preparation, so tonight, we’re going to go and prepare the best we can,” Feehan said.
Ridder is just enjoying the ride.
“It’s a lot of fun,” the head coach said. “We have seven seniors on this team in a variety of roles. They’ve worked hard and it’s great to see them go to locker room and celebrate that they’re going to get to play at Pinnacle Bank for a state title.”