ADA – Without senior captain Jessie Giguere, one of the few on the team who could match up with Liberty-Benton’s tower of a forward in 6’3” Caitlin Elseser, Delta was overmatched as they fell to the second-ranked Eagles 62-30 to end their season in the Division III regional semifinal at Ohio Northern University Tuesday.
Elseser scored on an inside move just 10 seconds into the contest, and frankly, the Eagles did not look back from there. They also shot a blistering 59 percent (13 of 22) in the first half, including 50 percent (4 of 8) from beyond the three-point arc.
“It came down to them being the better team,” said Delta head coach Ryan Ripke after the game. “They had shooters all over the floor. The Elseser girl, first play of the game she catches the ball and does an up and under. I look at my assistant and I said, three games and I hadn’t seen an up and under at all. Experience might have had a little bit (to do with the result). But they were the better team.”
L-B got three-pointers from Alissa Rhodes, Schy Shepherd and Savanah Richards to help them get out to a 19-7 lead after the first quarter. Brooklyn Green had four of the Panthers’ seven points in the frame, leading all Delta scorers on the night with 11 points.
“They came out there in the first quarter and they had the big girl guarding Alayna (Mitchell),” explained Ripke. “And so we were trying to get as many ball screens set by Alayna as possible. Then Alayna came out of the game and she (Elseser) went on to (guard) Brooklyn. So we went to some of our sets where we just sat Brooklyn at the high post and tried to run some scissor cuts off her. Try to isolate her a little bit. I thought, for the most part, she did a pretty good job.”
However, the Eagles kept knocking down shots. Shepherd began the second period by hitting her second triple of the game, then Elseser added a putback hoop at the 6:21 mark for a 17-point Eagle advantage.
The Panthers at one point cut the deficit to 28-14, thanks to baskets from sisters Braelyn Wymer and Brooklyn Wymer around two free throws for Richards. But the Eagles would keep them at bay, taking a 34-19 lead into the locker room.
Liberty-Benton left nothing to chance in the third quarter, exploding out to a 16-2 run and outscoring Delta 20-3 in the frame. Leading the charge was Richards who scored 9 of her team-high 25 points in the third.
“So we kind of tried to make an adjustment there going into the second quarter,” said Ripke of his defensive strategy against the Eagles. “Saying hey listen, ‘we’ve got to at least try to take her (Elseser) away and then we’ve just got to close out on their shooters. And hope that we can get a hand up in time, and maybe throw their rhythm off a little bit. I think it kind of worked there for the second quarter. But then that third quarter, I don’t want to say they couldn’t miss. But we could, and we missed a lot there in the third quarter.”
Shepherd added 14 points for the Eagles while Elseser had 13 to go along with six rebounds. Brooklyn Wymer chipped in eight points for Delta. Senior Abby Freeman closed her career with seven points and four assists.
The Eagles shot 53 percent (24 of 45) for the game, compared to Delta’s 27 percent (12 for 44). And they blocked an astounding 11 Panther shots. L-B also won the rebounding battle 31-25.
The future is still bright for Delta. They will return some key pieces for the 2019-20 campaign, including four sophomores who were vital to their 25-4 district championship season.
“I hope that it makes those girls hungry,” noted Ripke. “We’ve got four sophomore girls there that got a big taste of what it takes to win at this level.
“Those girls in there, seniors, sophomores, even the girls on the bench, they hate losing. That’s the one thing that unites them a lot, is that they just flat out hate to lose.”
Reach Max Householder at 419-335-2010