Woodridge girls fall to Norton, but prepared for postseason

Steve Batko
Correspondent

Playing games at a dizzying pace, the Woodridge girls basketball team is getting in plenty of work to prepare for the post season.

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Despite running into Norton in the most recent outing, the Bulldogs have experienced a slew of positives in recent action.

Woodridge, 11-4 overall and 9-3 in the Metro Athletic Conference, couldn’t stay with the talented Panthers (18-3), but got a familiar glimpse at what intense defensive pressure looks like if the Bulldogs can fight its way through sectional tournament play.

Norton (18-3) won 57-32 and is 14-0 in the MAC, capturing an incredible 52nd consecutive league victory and gaining yet another league crown.

Head coach Chris Nauer can put things into perspective and the loss doesn’t dampen a strong winter.

Earning the 18th seed in the Division II Region 6 sectional in the Northeast district 5 bracket, Woodridge will host 26th seed Parma Heights Holy Name on Feb. 17 at 7 p.m.

“We are excited to host a sectional game this year as this will be the first time since I have been here that we are having a home game,” noted Nauer, who is in his fifth year.

A trio of Bulldog seniors – forward Olivia Woods and guards Layla Foster and Bella Owen, are leading Woodridge, which is also getting big contributions from a slew of underclassmen.

That energy coupled with an increased edge on the defensive end, featuring more full court pressure, has brought on an influx of optimism.

“We are excited to host a home sectional game this year and will look to hold a similar game plan we have had over the past couple weeks,” pointed out Nauer. “It will start on the defensive end and if we can put pressure on the basketball, push the ball in transition and share the ball offensively, we like our chances as we prepare for a tournament run.”

Holy Name, 3-11, is led by do-it-all 5-foot-6 lead guard Becky Styers.

A 1,000-point scorer, Styers averages 15.2 points, 8.0 rebounds, 4.2 steals, and 2.5 assists a game. She is headed to Ursuline College.

Styers is supported by 5-5 guard and 3-point threat Izzy Rodriguez (7.2 points, 4.6 boards, 2.0 assists). The only other senior besides Styers is small forward Johnetteliz Arenas (5.1 rebounds).

Nauer has a one game at a time approach, but isn’t afraid of the brackets either.

If Woodridge wins, the Bulldogs would play a sectional championship game on the road at Revere Feb. 20 at 1 p.m.

Revere is the seventh seed and is 11-8 overall, competing in the rugged Suburban League American Conference with Medina Highland, Aurora, Copley, and Tallmadge.

However, it isn’t a stretch that Woodridge could bag a pair of tourney wins, but Nauer is in no hurry to think ahead.

Adison Novosel is Revere’s leader as the 5-11 forward is versatile and can score, but has been injured. A strong front line also features 5-10 Audrey Livesay while guard Jeanne Hujer directs traffic and heads an active full-court press.

“During this unpredictable season, the girls have done a great job of staying focused with our next match-up and working extremely hard throughout the entire year,”

expressed Nauer. “We have some work left to do this week with three MAC games still left to play.”

In the clash at Norton, active junior forward Anna Rorrer gave the Bulldogs plenty of inspiration with a superb first half. She finished with 12 points, eight rebounds, two blocked shots and two steals.

Woods had her usual solid outing in the paint with nine points and eight caroms.

Norton forces a lot of turnovers with its pressure and Woodridge had 26, but it wasn’t an alarming total.

Still, Nauer realizes that turnovers – even some unforced ones in a 52-26 Feb. 9 league win over Field, are cause some focus leading up to sectional play.

Woodridge had nine turnovers in the first 9:00 against Field (2-13, 1-9).

“We always talk about trying to slow down and make the good pass and sometimes, the easy pass,” explained Nauer. “Like many teams, we rush it sometimes and we just need to slow down and that’s tough because we have been playing a lot of transition basketball and we are trying to push the ball.”

Besides Rorrer, Woodridge has been getting a ton of support from improving underclassmen like junior Izzy Best, sophomore guard Leah Mencer, junior wing Kendal Gregory, and junior post Emma Stekelenburg.

Best, a fabulous athlete who has great speed, has always shined on defense and in the transition game. Now she is shooting better and has gained confidence.

Scoring 12 points with six steals against Field, Best excelled as did Rorrer, whose non-stop motor led to 11 points, 11 boards and six thefts.

“Izzy and Anna are our two defensive stars and when they start scoring, we can be a dangerous team,” declared Nauer.

Rorrer impressed at Norton by securing the board on the defensive glass and then dribbling the ball down the entire court a few times and she was under control.

Sometimes it’s easy to look past Woods because she is so consistent. She had nine points, sank 7-of-8 free throws, and had 10 rebounds, five steals and dished out three assists against Field.

“Olivia continues to do great in the post and she really is a complete player,” said Nauer, who revealed that Woods is getting some looks from colleges.

Woodridge tallied 40 rebounds in the win as Foster and Stekelenburg grabbed eight and seven, respectively.

Mencer (seven points, four feeds) can be a facilitator and recently, she has played a lot of off guard, allowing for different angles for shots and feeds down low on the block.

Foster buried two pressure-packed free throws to help secure a 42-41 league road win with just 8.0 seconds at Streetsboro Feb. 6. It was the Bulldogs’ second win over Streetsboro (8-9, 6-5) in three days.

Foster hit six free throws in the win and the versatile guard ended with eight points while Woods had 14.

“Layla is a three-year varsity letter winner and has played in some big games over the course of her high school career,” noted Nauer. “She also can confidently step to the free throw line and ice a game for us. She did it at Cloverleaf and Streetsboro. Layla is always one you can count on down the stretch to be a big part of this team’s success.”

Capturing the third win in four days, Woodridge defeated Streetsboro 38-21 behind some strong defense at home Feb. 4.

“It was another strong defensive effort was turned in by all, holding the Lady Rockets to single digits each quarter,” said Nauer, who saw Best equal her season-high of 12 points.