The Chagrin Falls Tigers had higher hopes for 2014, but injuries derailed the season. Despite that, the Tigers won the CVC outright with a 10-0 record.
It was a season of many twists and turns for the Chagrin Falls girls basketball team and, what turned out to be the season finale, was no different.
The Tigers fought long and hard against Laurel, but came up short, losing 58-53 in a Division II sectional final Thursday at Chagrin Falls High School.
The loss ended the Tigers’ season at 14-8. Chagrin Falls also won the Chagrin Valley Conference Chagrin Division with a 10-0 mark.
The season started out with high expectations as the Tigers returned the bulk of their roster from a team that went 20-6 the previous season, shared the CVC Chagrin Division title and advanced to a Division II regional semifinal before falling to eventual state champion Hathaway Brown.
Chagrin Falls roared out to a 6-1 record. Then, the Tigers lost three straight after star 6-foot-5 post Hallie Thome suffered a season-ending injury.
However, the Tigers rebounded as evidenced by their perfect mark in CVC play.
The loss against the Gators (12-11) was in a similar up-and-down fashion.
Laurel started out the game with a 10-2 lead as the Tigers looked to be in trouble.
However, the Tigers outplayed the Gators for the rest of the first half and would have taken a 29-26 lead into halftime if not for a last second 3-pointer by the Gators’ Abby Chmiel. That, instead, tied the game at 29-29 at the break. Chmiel scored 12 points for Laurel.
Laurel coach David Meyer talked about how important Chmiel’s shot was for the Gators.
“We wanted that to be the last possession and we wanted a good shot,” Meyer said. “That was a perfect job and a crucial shot. We went into the locker room fired up. And we came out with fire in the third.”
That they did indeed. The Tigers did well in the first half of driving to the hoop. At halftime, the Gators adjusted.
“They showed in the first half they love to drive and dish,” Meyer said. “In the second half we played zone to take away their skip pass. We benefited. I give our kids credit for doing a good job.”
In the third quarter, the Gators’ zone stifled what was a potent Tiger offense in the first half as Laurel outscored Chagrin Falls, 12-6, in the third quarter to take a 41-35 lead. That’s when the Tigers settled for a lot of outside shots instead of being able to penetrate the Gators’ tough zone defense.
Chagrin Falls coach Brittany Anderson saw her offense get stagnant in the third quarter
“It feels like we settled,” Anderson said. “We did not execute our game plan at all. We couldn’t get the job done.”
Things got worse before they got better as the Gators eventually got out to a 52-43 lead with about 2 minutes left in the game.
The Tigers seemed like they were done as leading scorer Hannah Thome left the game. Anderson said Thome had been battling a sickness all week. Thome led Chagrin Falls with 14 points. She also had four rebounds, two blocked shots, two steals and two assists.
But the Tigers had one more run left in them. Kelly Dishong hit a 3-pointer. Then, Laurel star Nicole Felice missed the front end of a 1-and-1.
The Tigers’ Amy Dishong followed that with a 3-pointer of her own to pull Chagrin Falls within 52-49 with 45 seconds left in the game. Amy Dishong scored 11 points with six rebounds and four assists.
“We had to start fouling a lot, but other people stepped up,” Anderson said. “We’re not defined by one person.”
But that was the closest the Tigers got in the final moments. They had another opportunity after Alex Cade made just one of two foul shots with 43 seconds left to play, but Laurel’s Issy DeFino got the offensive rebound. She passed to Felice, who made both of her foul shots with 30 seconds left to play to give the Gators a 55-49 advantage.
Felice had a great game as she scored 29 points with four assists and four steals.
“We knew going in we couldn’t let her get off,” Anderson said.
Brianna Baker scored eight points with seven rebounds for the Tigers.
As hard as the loss was for the Tigers, they can take pride in their Chagrin Division title and with how they performed for the rest of the season after Hallie Thome’s injury.
“We definitely set team goals,” Anderson said. “They were not conditional. We didn’t say ‘We’re only going to win the CVC if our starting five stay healthy.’ We knew we had the girls to get the job done.”
For more photos of the game visit http://smu.gs/MZ9LMC.
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