Aside from the fact that South Range people are super cool and Coach Fishel is one of the best dudes in the business, here are my final thoughts on the teams that participated. (I missed almost all of the Salem-Ursuline game which the Quakers came back to win. So I will skip that one.)
Boardman is Improving
I watched them get ran out of the gym by Marlington earlier this year. A month later they’re outplaying Hoban for the first eight minutes. There’s still a long way to go to be consistently competitive but some progress is obvious. Senior Reagan Burkey gives them energy and some scoring, junior Paige Snyder looks like a solid contributor, and freshman Mackenzie Riccitelli looks more comfortable at the point after a handful of games. They’re still without a returning starter, sophomore Gia Triveri, who will boost the lineup even more.
Poland is Still Great
Jackie Grisdale has never been the number one option for the Bulldogs, she’s never had to carry the scoring load. She does now, and yesterday was the best I’ve ever seen her. When Grisdale is as dominant as she was against Western Reserve, the Bulldogs will be as tough an out in the tournament as they’ve always been. They still play very hard, Coach Blanch still coaches very hard, they still have high expectations. I don’t know if there’s another star waiting in line behind Grisdale, who has waited in line behind Gajdos, Bury and Brown, but she is going to make Poland a serious contender for at least one more postseason.
Western Reserve’s Year?
The Devils played pretty solid, even in a loss. The stars may align for them. They’re going to catch a McDonald team that hasn’t even started their season yet, big time advantage for them all the way through the districts. A potential Cornerstone matchup, whether in a super district or regional won’t be against the usual immovable Patriots. They’ve already beaten Dalton, who also isn’t on the level we’re used to seeing. Buckeye Central is the only potential regional returner that is as good as any other year. Have the Devils boosted their schedule to surpass anything they’ll see before Dayton to be prepared? It doesn’t look like it as of now, especially with two of their better games being cancelled. There’s still a chance to schedule some serious competition with the ever changing schedules of the year. Nonetheless, it’s a now or never situation in Berlin Center.
How Far Can Cluse Carry Nordonia?
The supporting cast is there, some nice guards, some shooters, some solid bigs, lots of kids that play hard…but this team will only go as far as Maddi Cluse, and that can potentially be a nice run. I haven’t seen a game yet where she wasn’t the strongest, and most dominant player, when she is focused! The big question is can she stay focused. If she can, a league title, and a tourney run is completely possible. Last nights game included having to be held back by her teammates, many referee disputes and multiple trips to the bench to be calmed down by her coach. Unfortunately this isn’t uncommon. The effort switch also has a tendency to be on and off too frequently. The ability to be dominant, take over games, and carry her team is there. For Nordonia its a now or never scenario. If Cluse can block everything else out, she can get the job done.
Hoban is Loaded
They have legitimately 10 kids that can play, for real play. Maybe too much talent and not enough minutes? This isn’t your traditional school where kids have played together for years. These kids are from all corners of Northeast Ohio, and most of them have never played together before this year. Only three of the top 10 have played a full season for the Knights. The talent is there and they have time to tie up any loose ends before the postseason. Can they get 10 kids who are used to or expect to play 28 minutes a game together on the same page enough to take down the top teams in the district and region? This team could end up in Dayton, and if that happens, this will be Pam Davis’ best coaching job in a long line of great seasons.
South Range is on the Track
Coach Fishel has this team pointed in the right direction. They are my favorite to come out of the Cuyahoga Falls region and head to Dayton. The biggest challenge will be keeping the Raiders confidence up and healthy. They are playing a schedule much tougher than any other team in their region with the exception of maybe Elyria Catholic. I’m sure the seniors would like to go out with more wins, and that can start to weight on teenage girls. However the alternative is ending in Dayton at the state Final Four. One hurdle may be the lack of depth, but it isn’t something that will separate any team they’ll see at the Falls, but Dayton is a different story. In my mind the Raiders are right where they need to be, and project deep into a tourney run, Coach Fishel’s biggest job may be keeping the morale and confidence where it needs to be to not stumble short of their goals.