ELYRIA — Elyria Catholic coach Eric Rothgery couldn’t have asked for a better start to Saturday’s game at the Coliseum.
“Coach (Joe) Schill said maybe we should start all our games at 6:30,” joked Rothgery, referring to the earlier start on Saturday.
Elyria Catholic (17-4) scored the game’s first 25 points on its way to a surprisingly easy 68-35 win over Gilmour Academy.
“I’d like to do that every game,” Rothgery said. “That was probably the best quarter of basketball that we’ve played since I’ve been here.”
The Panthers were up 20-0 after one quarter and extended the scoreless streak 4:25 into the second before Annika Corcoran broke the drought with a 3-pointer. To that point, the Lancers (13-7) had missed their first 16 shots from the floor and turned the ball over eight times.
“That was against a quality team that had won nine of their last 10 games,” Rothgery said. “Coach (Julie) Solis has won two state championships (at Twinsburg). That’s a good program. It was a good night for us.”
Gilmour has made three straight trips to the Final Four in Columbus, winning the Division III championship in 2017. Solis took over the program this year.
Ally Winnen got the ball rolling with seven of EC’s first 10 points, the other three compliments of Kaylie Griffin on a 3-pointer. Faith Williams, the Panthers’ three-year starting point guard, led the way with 24 points, leaving her just two shy of 1,000 in her career.
“They’re a really good team,” Williams said. “We weren’t really expecting it to be like that. We played a really good game.”
Williams wasn’t aware of her milestone until Rothgery mentioned it in the postgame meeting.
“I didn’t know I was just a couple away (from 1,000),” she said with a huge smile. “Everybody just found out about it when Coach Rothgery told us. Everybody’s really excited for me. It’ll be exciting when it happens.”
Winnen finished with 16 points and 13 rebounds. EC easily won the rebound battle 50-25. Winnen’s twin sister Abby should be returning to play soon after battling a knee injury.
Rothgery was able to use his depth extensively and EC’s 2-3 zone defense never allowed Gilmour the opportunity to get into any kind of rhythm. Corcoran finished with 21 points, but it came with a lot of effort. She was just 7-of-24 from the field, 4-of-4 at the foul line and missed her first seven shots, including her first five 3-point attempts.
“We were nervous coming in,” Rothgery said. “I didn’t know what to expect. We played well, we shared the ball. We pretty much played a zone defense the entire game. That has never happened for us, but when it’s working, why change?”
“Our zone defense is working really well,” Williams said. “We’re taking away the shooters and we’re stopping the inside game. We’re all playing really hard defense and it’s working.”
Williams and Winnen play well on both ends of the floor and Riley Schill, the Griffin sisters – Kaylie and Stephanie – along with Annika Bredel, Julia Allegretto and Emily Rapacz complement each other on the defensive end.
Gilmour shot just 26 percent from the floor. Solis, winner of over 300 games in her career, was asked if she could remember anything like that happening to any of her previous teams.
“I’m sure in 18 years I’ve probably been involved in that once or twice,” she said. “I knew (the Panthers) were good. I told my team, ‘If you don’t come out and play hard, this is a team that pretty much does everything fundamentally the right way.’
“They’re very team oriented. They swing the ball well. They pass the ball well. Their kids are smart, they don’t make mistakes. Truthfully, in the half court, they have a nice point guard and they have a nice big presence inside, but the thing I love about them the most is their hustle and effort.”
Elyria Catholic 68, Gilmour Academy 35
Gilmour (35): Jordan Nolan 1-0-2, Lexi Foster 0-0-0, Annika Corcoran 7-4-21, Lizzie Bender 2-0-4, Maddie Puletti 1-0-3, Mariam Jallow 0-0-0, Madeleine Finotti 0-0-0, Lauryn Stover 2-1-5. Totals 13-5-35.
Elyria Catholic (68): Faith Williams 11-0-24, Regan Schill 3-0-8, Annika Bredel 2-0-4, Kaylie Griffin 3-0-8, Ally Winnen 7-2-16, Julia Allegretto 1-0-2, Emily Rapacz 3-0-6, Stephanie Griffin 0-0-0. Totals 30-2-68.
Gilmour Academy 0 8 12 15 —35
Elyria Catholic 20 15 15 18 —68
Three-point goals: Gilmour 3-23 (Corcoran), Elyria Catholic 6-16 (Williams 2, Schill 2, K.Griffin 2). Field goals: Gilmour 13-50 (26 percent), Elyria Catholic 30-56 (53.5 percent). Free throws: Gilmour 5-10 (50 percent), Elyria Catholic 2-7 (28.5 percent). Rebounds: Gilmour 25 (Bender 7), Elyria Catholic 50 (Winnen 16). Turnovers: Gilmour 11, Elyria Catholic 18. Fouls: Gilmour 12, Elyria Catholic 12. Fouled Out: None.
Junior Varsity: Elyria Catholic 42-30.