First, the Willard girls basketball team established a tough interior defense. Then, at the other end of the floor, 3-pointers started to fall.
Before long, Bay was on its heels and out of its comfort zone Tuesday in a Division II regional semifinal at Mansfield Senior High School and, after a lopsided third quarter, the Rockets fell to the Crimson Flashes, 49-32.
“(Willard) really pushed us out of our offense and clamped down on our shooters,” Rockets coach John Curran said. “Credit to them.”
The Rockets’ season ended in the regional semi for the third year in a row and snapped a five-game winning streak. Normally a team that could hold its own on the glass with its length and activity, Bay was out-rebounded by the equally-long Flashes, 41-20. Six-foot-one junior Presley Feltner nearly out-did Bay (19-7) by herself on the boards, grabbing 16 (six offensive).
With Willard (22-4) establishing itself inside, it eventually bled over to the offensive end, where it led 11-4 after the first quarter and 20-14 at halftime. Senior forward Cassie Crawford hit three first-half threes on her way to a game-high 26 points and set a pace the Rockets couldn’t match. Multiple-shot possessions also sapped away energy as the Flashes piled up a 14-5 advantage on the offensive glass.
Still, Bay went on a quick 5-0 run late in the second and a Kayla Koz three from the wing made it 17-14 with 15 seconds left. But Crawford, an Ashland University commit, upped her team’s lead with a three of her own just before the halftime buzzer that turned momentum back.
“When we did get within three, we weren’t really in good rhythm,” Curran said. “After going in (to halftime) down six, we felt pretty good after playing what we thought was a pretty bad half. Then we kind of (beaten) in the second half, so, credit to them. They did a nice job of pushing us out of our offense.”
The Rockets went down double-digits midway through the third when the Flashes pieced together a 17-5 run, extending their lead to 37-22. Crawford hit two more threes, and Feltner — who finished with 10 points — drilled a three from the top of the arc in the final seconds to add an exclamation point.
Layla Dials’ three from the left corner early in the fourth put the Flashes ahead 42-22 and the Rockets couldn’t answer, though they did force 15 turnovers on defense. Haley Andrejcak led the team with nine points and three rebounds. Julia Costas scored eight to go with three rebounds, two assists and two steals. Koz added seven points off the bench.
“We missed a couple shots that we normally make,” Curran said. “But it is what it is. It’s funny, when you play these regional games, you get exposed. All your warts come out. And that’s what happened tonight.”
It was the final game for yet another strong Rockets senior class, which included Andrejcak, Barb Aldridge, Grace Chilton, Jen Hanslik and Caroline Fowles.
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