Avon WBB sectional final

Avon's Ashlee Torbert (14) drives past Amherst's Nora Wright. Torbert was held scoreless on just four attempts against the Comets. 

In the first quarter of Thursday’s girls basketball sectional final between Avon and Amherst, both teams searched for a rhythm offensively as the Eagles led just 7-2, and held the visiting Comets to 1-of-12 shooting.

Almost immediately in the second quarter, the Comets hit their stride and opened the quarter on an 8-2 run. Though an Eagles’ 3-pointer tied the game at 10, that was the closest Avon got the rest of the way as Amherst battled its way to a 39-28 victory.

The Comets, seeded fifth in the Division I Elyria District, upset No. 1 Olmsted Falls Tuesday night, and will face No. 2 Westlake on Friday.

Amherst coach Jay Valadez knew the odds were against his team, having lost both regular-season meetings to Avon and traveling to the Eagles’ home court for the tournament game, but he remained calm after the rocky first quarter.

“When I’m sitting here at the end of the quarter, (my team is) expecting me to start screaming at them,” Valadez said. “I said, ‘It’s fine. We’re fine.’ We knew it was coming. They’re a great team, very well-coached. The message was (to) grind it out, pound the ball inside. What do we have that they don’t have? A 6’1” girl going to Cleveland State (Amaya Staton).”

Staton played a major role in the Comets’ comeback. After being held scoreless on five shots in the first, Staton dominated in the low post, making all three shots she took in the second for six points. Though she struggled from the field the rest of the night, the senior went 7-of-8 on free throws in the last two quarters and finished with 15 points and 16 rebounds (seven offensive).

Joining Staton in double-figures was Faith Lewis, who finished with 11 points, four rebounds and five steals.

“We just looked at the end goal,” Staton said. “We all want to get back to (Elyria Catholic) like we did last year. So we just all put our heads in together and get everybody to do their part. At the end of the day, we got the dub.”

Between the second and third quarters, Amherst’s defense – which forced 23 turnovers (13 steals) – held Avon to just nine points (five in the third) and never let the Eagles within closer than eight points down the stretch.

The Comets forced the Eagles into awkward, low-percentage shots with a constantly-changing defense. Avon shot just 6-for-31 in the last three quarters and, when it did get open looks, it couldn’t get the lid off the basket.

“(Amherst) played a great basketball game, I’ll give them that,” Avon coach Meghan Larrick said. “We struggled to get into a groove, we struggled to take advantage of different situations and it ended up that they took advantage of everything. We didn’t take care of the basketball, we weren’t finishing shots and we weren’t able to execute. It was the perfect storm in the wrong way.”

Leading the Eagles were sophomore Abby Liber and junior Allyssa McLellon with eight points apiece and nine and six rebounds, respectively.

Thursday was also the last game for four seniors (Kaylee Clements, Kylie Goetz, Ashlee Torbert and Halle Noble). Larrick said after this loss and the season as a whole, the team knows what it needs to work on for next season and will carry on the legacy of those seniors next year.

“Each of those seniors are impressive young ladies and I know that they have huge, bright futures ahead of them,” Larrick said. “As their coach, I couldn’t be more proud of what they’ve accomplished thus far and what they will accomplish in the future.”

Contact this reporter at jkopanski@westlifenews.com or 440-871-5797.

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