River playoffs

Rocky River's Julia Potts (14) drives past Firelands defenders Wednesday night at Elyria High School. Potts finished with a team-high 18 points in the Pirates' 57-49 victory. 

Rocky River girls basketball coach Elaine Robinson preached the same thing to her team after the third quarter Wednesday at Elyria High School as she has throughout this year’s tournament: Every game is a marathon and that they had to weather small storms throughout games.

As Firelands cut their deficit to 38-35 going into the fourth – after the Pirates led by as many as 12 points in the third – Rocky River weathered that storm and used pestering defense and an efficient offense to defeat the Falcons 57-49 and advance to Friday’s Division II Elyria District final against Bay.

“We said at the beginning of the season that our goal was to make it to the district finals,” Robinson said. “What we are doing as a team right now is exciting. I said to them on Tuesday, ‘Today doesn’t feel like a last practice. I don’t think today’s the last practice.’ That’s an exciting feeling. I don’t know if, in my four years, I’ve ever felt that.”

Leading Rocky River’s 19-point charge in the fourth was sophomore Sophia Murray with nine points (6-for-6 on free throws) and two steals. Murray finished with 11 points, three assists, four rebounds and seven steals.

Julia and Maria Potts were the other two Pirates to score in double figures. Julia had a team-high 18 points and added five rebounds and two steals. Maria had 12 points, three assists, four rebounds and five steals.

Abbey Schmitz led Firelands with 18 points and added four rebounds and four steals. Isabella Zvara had 17 points, 13 rebounds and four steals for the Falcons.

“We just gave it all we could (in the fourth quarter),” Julia Potts said. “I feel like I have a big part on the team so me and my sister, we both talk to each other and give each other motivation and tell each other we can do it. I just know that if we all work together we can win.”

Firelands (20-4) closed the third quarter on a 15-6 run and held all the momentum with what felt like a home crowd cheering them on. After calming her team down, Robinson's Pirates (19-5) came out and clamped down on defense forcing five steals at crucial moments. Murray turned those steals into five-straight points to start the fourth and halted the Falcons’ comeback attempt.

Both teams’ defenses were efficient, with Rocky River swiping 19 steals and Firelands grabbing 17.

“Both Murray and (Taylor) Spies did a great job once we switched up defenses,” Robinson said. “They really did a great job pressuring upfront. Maria Potts on that backline, getting a lot of deflections, it was a good thing. We understand that we run a lot of defenses so we gotta be able to switch it up but every time we switched it up, we were on communication we were telling each other what we were in and knowing where we’re supposed to be.”

Now the Pirates have a date with Great Lakes Conference rival and the top seed in the district, Bay. The Rockets won both regular-season matchups 49-41 and 49-37 and defeated No. 4 Cloverleaf 54-20 in the game immediately following Rocky River’s.

Robinson is now hopeful that Friday’s practice will, once again, not be the Pirates’ last.

“We as a coaching staff, we take a lot of pride in our scouting reports. We make sure we prepare the girls as much as possible,” Robinson said. “Just really locking down on some personnel. We gotta make sure we give them as much information as possible.”

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

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