CANTON — As her team’s glorious run extended into March, 11th-year Aurora head girls basketball coach Erika Greenberg wanted to make sure her players enjoyed every moment of their journey.
Someday, every single one of them will be downright tickled to discuss the greatest girls basketball season in school history.
Pardon them for not being so cheerful now.
Aurora’s breakthrough season came to a heartbreaking end after losing a convincing 61-32 decision to Canton GlenOak Tuesday in a Region 1 semifinal game. The contest took place at the Canton Memorial Civic Center.
The Greenmen, who captured their third consecutive Suburban League American Conference championship after going 90 years without a title, finished 24-2. The loss ended a 17-game winning streak and their win total is the highest in school history.
Greenberg certainly loved every moment of her team’s success. However, now that it’s over, she wasn’t particularly jubilant.
"It’s hard while you’re going through it to think what a good season [it was]," Greenberg said. "I’m sure in a couple weeks, I’ll look back and appreciate what we did."
It may take at least a few weeks. That’s because their last game may have left a deep wound in their souls.
Aurora could never get going against a very deep and very disciplined Golden Eagles’ squad, which made its first regional appearance since 1990.
GlenOak (22-2), which captured its 20th straight victory, patiently worked the ball around and allowed its depth to overwhelm the Greenmen.
The Golden Eagles also did everything they could to neutralize the Greenmen’s superstar, Shyanne Sellers.
The sophomore point guard struggled with her shot mainly because she was surrounded by green GlenOak jerseys throughout the evening.
Sellers, who came into the game with a dazzling 24.1-point scoring average, finished with just 11 points.
"We play against a lot of great players," said Golden Eagles head coach Paul Wackerly, who was the head coach of the North Canton Hoover girls basketball team when it won the state title in 2002.
"We have [Kierstan] Bell [Canton McKinley] in our league [Federal League]. Last year, we had [Taylor] Mikesell [Massillon Jackson graduate], who is the best freshman in the Big Ten.
"Our defense is very disciplined. Overall, I don't think they [the Greenmen] played bad. We're just really deep."
Wherever Aurora’s transcendent playmaker goes, the rest of her teammates usually follow.
Sadly for the Greenmen, that contagious downward spiral took place Tuesday.
GlenOak led 29-14 at halftime as Aurora had a hard time finding the basket. To make matters worse, the Greenmen couldn’t make their freebies, either.
Aurora converted just 6 of 15 foul shots on the evening.
"It was not our night," Greenberg said. "We didn’t shoot the ball well; we didn’t shoot at the line well."
Junior point guard Addison Mucci scored a game-high 16 points and controlled the game the entire night for the Golden Eagles, who also had their way on the boards, particularly on the offensive end.
Junior forward Makenzie Green came off the bench to score a game-high 16 points and junior forward Erica Warren added 10 points for the Golden Eagles.
Green played more minutes than normal because GlenOak’s star, 6-foot-1 junior post player Hayley Smith, was hindered by foul trouble.
"My best player gets in foul trouble and our girl [Green] comes off the bench and she has 16," Wackerly said. "We don't drop off. We have a very unselfish team. This is a very special group of kids."
Thanks to the Golden Eagles’ depth, the Greenmen were forced to play an all-out, full-court pressure defense to find some kind of spark.
Unfortunately for the Aurora players, GlenOak picked them apart.
The Golden Eagles had no trouble beating the pressure and got several layups as a result. GlenOak officially sealed the Greenmen’s fate by outscoring them 21-5 in the fourth quarter.
"I thought our defense was OK in spurts," Greenberg said. "We had to start pressing because they’re so fundamental. They’re just going to work the ball the whole fourth quarter. It kind of got out of hand.
"This one is going to sting, but maybe it will be motivation for next year."
Senior guards Shayla Sellers, who is planning to play at Purdue University Fort Wayne in Indiana, and Haley Ross, who plans to play at Marietta College, scored seven points apiece for Aurora. Junior guard Dylynn Lasky also had seven points for the Greenmen.
Aurora’s other two seniors are guards Julia Mazanec and Becca Crawford.
"They’re great kids," Greenberg said. "This is a really good senior class. There was good leadership; there was good energy. They never complained; they always worked hard.
"It’s going to be one of those classes that is dearly missed."
Reporter Frank Aceto can be reached at 330-541-9444, firstname.lastname@example.org or @FrankAceto_RPC.