WHITEHOUSE — Delta was behind for much of the game outside of a stretch in the second quarter, but in the end decided to pull out all the stops and, with their seniors leading the charge, fought back to earn a 37-34 victory over top-seeded Elmwood Saturday in the Division III girls basketball district title game at Anthony Wayne.
“I just told the girls in the locker room, ‘you’re down four in a tight game in the fourth quarter and they have the best offensive player on the floor, you’re in a jam,’” said Panther head coach Ryan Ripke after the game. “We just had to get tough on defense. Go back to the scouting report, and just take it one possession at a time and one stop at a time. And then on offense, we just had to be aggressive and keep attacking the basket.”
The Panthers outscored the Royals 17-11 in the fourth quarter and 12-5 over the game’s final 5:13. All their points in the frame were scored by either Reagan Rouleau, Braeylyn Wymer or Brooklyn Green.
Coach Ripke decided his team would press in the fourth quarter and it really paid dividends with just over five minutes remaining.
Green scored through hard contact where no foul was called, then she swiped the ball away on the ensuing inbound for a bucket that knotted the score at 29.
“We weren’t quite sure how much we wanted to press them,” admitted Ripke. “Obviously Brooklyn Thrash is a phenomenal basketball player. She’s a good ball-handler; she sees the floor well being 6-feet. But there going into the fourth quarter we just felt like we had to pull out our press and see what happened. We gained a lot of energy through that; and obviously we gained some easy buckets. But I think it kind of put them on their heels a little bit, too. And maybe got them a little bit more out of rhythm.”
Delta then grabbed its first lead since the second quarter on a Braelyn Wymer three from the corner at the 4:27 mark.
The Royals responded with 1 of 2 at the foul line from Mackenzie Mareches, then back-to-back baskets by Thrash — the second coming off a steal — to take a 34-32 lead with 3:34 remaining.
Their lead would be short-lived as Rouleau converted a steal and score for the Panthers and after the Royals missed the front-end of a 1-and-1, she split a pair at the line to make it a 35-34 difference.
Delta clung to that lead until the final seconds when they nearly gave it up.
The Panthers turned it over following an inbound pass and in an attempt to get it back fouled Mareches, putting her on the line. However, they got a break when Mareches came up short on the 1-and-1 opportunity and Delta snagged the rebound.
Braelyn’s two free throws finished it off. She hit five threes on the night and finished with 19 points, while Green added eight points.
“Braelyn really carried us through, I don’t know, maybe the whole game,” exclaimed Ripke. “We were trying to figure out ways to get Brooklyn Green going and she finally got going there in the fourth quarter. I think the press obviously helped her. You’ve got to lean on your seniors and it’s really nice to have five of those.”
Ripke hopes to lean on his seniors again Wednesday where they will meet Ottawa-Glandorf in a regional semifinal at Lexington High School at approximately 8 p.m. It will not be unfamiliar to many of his girls, as a bulk of the seniors played on the district championship team from two years ago that also went to regionals.
“This is special because I told the girls after the district semifinal, I said ‘you girls went to a regional when you girls were sophomores. But this is your team; this is your team and we’re playing definitely a different way than we did two years ago. They’ve given themselves a new identity,” Ripke said.
In the district semifinal Thursday, Eastwood recovered from a 10-0 Delta first quarter run, but had no answer to a 60 percent shooting barrage the Panthers had in the second half, as Delta went on a game-ending 30-6 blitz to blow out the second-seeded Eagles 53-27.
Two Reagan Rouleau free throws broke an early tie in the first.
Brooklyn Green’s stickback, Ella Ford’s left-side triple and Brooklyn Wymer’s fastbreak hoop helped give the Panthers a 12-2 lead.
However, the Panthers got sloppy and back-to-back baskets by Kaitlyn Luidhardt and Aubrey Haas off turnovers chopped the difference to 12-10 at the quarter.
Freshman Kayla Buehler’s reverse layup with 5:46 left in the half brought Eastwood even at 14-14.
Green’s basket against the press regained a Panther advantage that was 20-16 at the half thanks to Khloe Weber’s layup from Green in the last minute.
Haas’ two free tosses with 5:44 left in the third kept Eastwood within a basket at 23-21, but what came next was a page from Panthers old, along with a variation from Panthers new.
“I talked to the girls, especially the seniors who were on teams that pressed for 32 minutes and just got after it,” coach Ripke said after. “This team can’t do that because we aren’t built like that. So when you talk about big runs that totally amazes me because they aren’t like the big runs you saw with the Abby Freemans or Maddie Mattimores when we could score 10 points in a minute and a half. I’m going to guess that those big runs spanned three or four minutes or longer.
“That’s just a testiment to our defense and our work rebounding. We were very focused tonight.”
Delta forced nine turnovers in the last 13 minutes of the game…Panthers old school.
Panthers new? Delta held the Eagles to 3-20 the rest of the game and thanks to their work on the glass, most became one-and-out for Eastwood offensively.
“We knew we had to rebound the basketball,” Ripke explained. “I always have to laugh when I listen to coaches talk about the keys to the game because you know what they are going to say: ‘limit turnovers and rebound the basketball’. It was the same tonight especially against a team like Eastwood. We wanted to make them shoot from outside and the second part was rebounding the basketball, and I thought (we) did just a phenomenal job.”
In the meantime at their own end, Delta sizzled.
Braelyn Wymer drilled a left-wing three-ball then Rouleau hit a baseline jumper to push the Panther margin to 29-21.
Then Green stroked a corner triple and scored on a putback with 3.5 on the clock to finish the third with Delta up 34-21.
In the fourth Delta hit from all angles, going 9-11 while the Eagles sat on the struggle bus shooting 18 percent.
Ford rebounded her own miss for a score, then Rouleau became white-hot with a triple, yet another Delta putback and a fastbreak layup.
Braelyn Wymer kicked in with a pull-up jumper on the break and a transition layup from Green and the Panthers got their biggest lead when Olivia Smith scored with 30 seconds left.
Delta held a 32-23 rebounding edge for the game, including 18-11 in the second half.
The Panthers held Eastwood to just 11-44 from the field while shooting 19-39 themselves.
Green’s 16 points led a balanced Panther attack. Rouleau added 13 and Braelyn Wymer 10.
Haas had 11 for Eastwood.
Swanton beaten by Elmwood
Swanton held the lead in the first quarter but in the end could not overcome nine Elmwood 3-pointers as they fell to the top-seeded Royals 55-39 to bow out of the girls district at Anthony Wayne Thursday.
The Bulldogs close the season at 16-9.
Swanton trailed 26-17 at halftime but in the third quarter they made a push.
Aricka Lutz, who in the first half eclipsed 1,000 career points, knocked down a three 52 seconds into the stanza. Elmwood answered at the other end on a drive to the bucket from Brooklyn Thrash; however, an Averie Lutz triple and another off the hand of Frankie Nelson knotted it up at 28 with 2:41 left in the frame.
The Royals did not panic though, and Cara Frank stuck one back off her own miss followed by Thrash’s corner three to put them back on top at 33-28. Aricka Lutz calmly sunk one from deep with 1:09 to go, but Elmwood’s 6’1” center Anna Barber then got a three-point play the old fashioned way, keeping the difference at five after three quarters.
Simply put, Elmwood hit one too many threes for Swanton to match in the fourth — and the game for that matter.
Lainey Bingham and Thrash each hit triples around one from Aricka Lutz in the first minute. Then the Royals got six straight Barber points, boosting the difference to 48-34 and putting it out of reach.
The Dogs got four points from Aricka Lutz, a three-point play by Averie Lutz, and two Katlyn Floyd free throws for a 9-5 lead past the midway point of the first quarter.
However, the Royals scored the next 18 points — a run that overlapped quarters — to take control. They hit four three-balls in the stretch which saw them go up 23-9 with 5:51 before halftime.
Aricka Lutz had 15 points and Averie Lutz 14 for Swanton.
Elmwood had a trio in double figures. Thrash finished with 18, while Mareches and Bingham each had 11.
Joe Blystone contributed to this article.