North’s 55-24 win over rival South in a Division I sectional championship game on Thursday did more for the Rangers than secure another trip to the Perry District tournament.
With the win, the Rangers finished the year undefeated on their home court but, more importantly, also secured a victory in the final competition to be held in that gymnasium. North High will be demolished at the end of the school year and the Rangers will move into their new home next fall.
“There was a lot of emotion tangled up today,” North coach Paul Force said. “This was the last game in this gym, a chance to go undefeated on this court this season, North-South round three, a great crowd–there was just a lot going on.”
All of those external factors may have contributed to North’s slow start but the Rebels also stormed out of the gate to take a 12-5 lead.
A Destiny Leo 3-pointer pulled the Rangers to within 12-8 after the first quarter.
“Credit to South, they came ready to roll and we expected that,” Force said. “I feel we stayed consistent to what we wanted to do and we got the ball to go in the hoop a little bit in that second quarter. Then we came out and locked it down on the defensive end in that second half.”
North outscored the Rebels in the second quarter, 16-6, and dominated their rivals in the second half, 34-6.
Leo led all scorers with 22 points and she also pulled down 10 rebounds and blocked a pair of shots.
Abby Carter contributed to the win with 21 points, six rebounds, three assists and four steals.
“It was an important game to come out and make a statement and collectively, we played a great game,” Carter said. “As a team, we’re never comfortable with where we‘re at because we know we have our best basketball ahead of us.”
Taylor Valaitis added five points and pulled down a game-high 14 rebounds. Maddy Hamilton pitched in with four points, Olivia Oostdyk scored two and Avril Drew finished with one point for the Rangers, who improved to 22-1 on the year.
“It was a good team win and the kids prepped hard and executed what we wanted to do,” Force said. “It was awesome to be able to send this gym off with a win like this for a sectional title and over a rival like South. There are a lot of great memories in this gym and tons of relationships that have developed in here. It’s crazy to think this was the last time I’d walk out of there after a game. I’m excited for what’s to come, but it’s tough to wrap my mind around this for sure.”
Force closed out the old gymnasium with an 89-25 record dating back to 2008. The Rangers will open their new gymnasium with a 21-game home winning streak.
Grace Woodcock led the Rebels with 11 points, Mya Matriano added eight, Delaney Matriano finished with four and Alyssa Tekavec scored one point for South.
North 55, South 24
South (7-17): Woodcock 11, M Matriano 8, D Matriano 4, Blasinsky 0, Stewart 0, Znidarsic 0, Hodge 0, Tekavec 1, Hopps 0, Woolnough 0
North (22-1): Carter 21, Hammond 0, M Hamilton 4, Leo 22, Drew 1, Valaitis 5, Wilson 0, Oostdyk 2, Vitello 0, C Hamilton 0, Vajusi 0
South 12 6 1 5 — 24
North 5 16 14 20 — 55
Free throws: South 3 of 4 , North 4 of 6; 3-pointers: South 3 (Woodcock 3), North 9 (Carter 4, Leo 4, M Hamilton); Rebounds: South 23, North 45 (Valaitis 14); Assists: South 4, North 12 (Hamilton 4)