Woodridge girls basketball suffers first loss vs. Rootstown

Steve Batko
Woodridge senior Layla Foster brings the ball downcourt during the Bulldogs' 34-32 loss to Rootstown Dec. 23

Suffering the first loss of a season is never easy, but the Woodridge girls basketball team gave veteran head coach Chris Nauer plenty of reason for optimism.

Not able to get a trio of long-range perimeter shots to fall in the final 30 seconds, the Bulldogs lost 36-34 at home against Rootstown in a non-league contest Dec. 23.

It was a disappointing loss, but at the same time, the clash revealed some earmarks of a Bulldog program that has made huge strides.

Rootstown (4-1) is a squad that was 18-6 last year and 9-3 in the PTC County Division.

Woodridge slid to 4-1 overall, prior to the Dec. 30 home contest against Mogadore.

Down by 12 at halftime, the Bulldogs extended their strong defensive play with a 1-2-2 half court zone defense in the second half.

As a result of the defense, Rootstown was held to sub-30-percent shooting and converted just three field goals the entire second half.

“Our girls really responded in the second half behind our defense,” explained Nauer. “Kudos to Rootstown for making big shots. We had some opportunities, but the shots just did not drop.”

Behind the play of senior forward Olivia Woods and two of her buckets in the paint sandwiched by a hoop down low by sophomore post Corrine Betts, Woodridge regained the lead 34-33.

Woods hit a short jumper out front in the paint on a feed from junior wing Anna Rorrer with 3:30 left in the game to secure a brief advantage.

“Corrine (Betts) came off the bench and did some nice things for us and really contributed,” declared Nauer.

Rootstown four-year guard Karlie Duvall (eight total points) had a steal off a Woodridge turnover that led to a pullup jumper on the right side by Kyale Shoepe to give the Rovers a 35-34 lead with 50 seconds left.

It was Shoepe who had scored Rootstown’s previous basket at the end of the third period – a college length 3-point bomb from the left elbow just before the third stanza expired.

That was a huge basket by Shoepe as Woodridge had outscored Rootstown 12-3 at that point. It was 32-26 going into the fourth, when Shoepe struck again from beyond the arc.

Woodridge sophomore Leah Mencer shot and missed a deep 3-pointer with 39.3 seconds left, but senior guard Layla Foster, grabbed the offensive carom.

Foster passed to senior guard Bella Owen, who shot and missed a 3-pointer and the ball went out of bounds with 30.3 ticks left.

After a missed 1-and-1 free throw, Woodridge retained possession and Nauer called a timeout with 19.8 seconds left.

With 15 ticks left, Mencer attempted a perimeter shot that missed and the ball went out of bounds with 6.8 seconds left and Duvall was fouled with 5.5 seconds left.

“We were just trying to score against their (2-3) zone and become comfortable for a good shot or to get to the foul line,” explained Nauer.

“I thought we had some good shots and opportunities, but the shots just did not drop for us.”

Duvall, who was held to just eight points and only three baskets, made the front end of the 1-and-1 and made the second shot, but Rootstown stepped over the line, so it was 36-34 and Woodridge had a chance with 5.5 seconds left.

The inbounds pass by Woodridge was stolen by Shoepe to secure the win.

Early on Woodridge showed poise and good shot selection against Rootstown’s 2-3 zone, but shots weren’t falling and a rash of Bulldog turnovers led the Rovers to extend their lead by outscoring the hosts 18-9 in the second period for a 26-14 halftime lead.

Turnovers would come back to haunt Woodridge in the final 8:00, but the 1-2-2 zone defense helped get the Bulldogs back into the game.

The Bulldogs effectively used juniors Izzy Best and Rorrer out at the top of that 1-2-2 half court zone. Their length and quickness gave the Rovers fits.

“Those two athletes are defenders who are interchangeable for us – Anna and Izzy are long, athletic and quick,” pointed out Nauer.

Woods tallied 15 points to lead Woodridge.

“Olivia continues to come out every night for us and she had another double-double in what has been a great season for her,” offered Nauer, who was also thrilled with the continued play of Rorrer.

Showing some offensive skills as well as a diverse skillset, Rorrer added 10 points, five rebounds, and three assists.

Saddled with her third personal foul late in the third quarter, Mencer only made two field goals, but had a strong floor game with five assists and four thefts.

A big key for Rootstown was a 17-2 advantage in free throw attempts. The Rovers hit 11 of 17 at the stripe while Woodridge was 1-2.

Owen buried the Bulldogs’ only triple while Best (five steals), Foster (three steals), and junior Kendal Gregory played strong defense.

Gregory defended Duvall off of the bench as Nauer mixed defenses.

Rootstown post Erica Moore added seven points, hauled down nine boards, and had two blocked shots.

Woodridge, 3-0 in the Metro Athletic Conference this season, will host powerful Norton in a re-scheduled league battle Jan. 4.

The Bulldogs play at Akron Springfield in a league game Jan. 6. Both games tip-off at 7 p.m.