Holy Name ends season for Woodridge girls basketball

Steve Batko
Correspondent

Just when one issue got would get solved and fixed, it seemed like another would creep up and surface. That’s how it went for the Woodridge girls basketball team in their sectional opener.

Hosting its first sectional tournament game in quite some time, Woodridge got a few fixes in during the tourney clash, but didn’t have enough answers for many and it led to a season-ending 43-37 first-round loss to 26th seed Parma Heights Holy Name.

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Woodridge, the 18th seed in the Division II Region 6 sectional in the Northeast district 5 bracket, could never gain any momentum in the first-round loss Wednesday.

The early exit was disappointing for the Bulldogs (13-5) who had hoped to survive and advance.

 Holy Name (4-13) maintained its poise, showed patience, and valued their possessions to capture the club’s biggest win of the winter.

Incredibly, the Green Wave did it without their 1,000-point scorer and do it-all guard Becky Styers, who is headed to Ursuline College. Styers was out with an ankle injury.

For the Bulldogs, it was an impressive 13-5 season as the program adjusted to adversity and battled throughout.

Head coach Chris Nauer was able to host a sectional game for the first time in his five years at the helm and notched an 11-win league campaign.

“It was not the outcome that we wanted, but Holy Name really rebounded the ball well and came up with some big plays,” commented Nauer.

Hurting the Bulldogs on the glass with an unofficial 17-8 advantage on the boards in the first half, Holy Name had an alarming 14 turnovers at the break, but woeful shooting kept Woodridge from gaining ground and playing from behind.

The Green Wave was relentless on the offensive glass.

Three different Bulldogs were tagged with two fouls in the first 10 minutes.

Woodridge failed to connect at the free throw line and never gained its shooting touch against the Green Wave’s half court traps.

Finally, in the second half the Bulldogs got the ball back down low in the post to Woods, forced the issue a bit with some full court pressure as Nauer tried to speed things up.

A team that doesn’t take a lot of 3-pointers, Holy Name saw Kiki Schmock bury one from the corner to put the visitors up 27-18 at the 4:51 mark of the third period.

Using a big lineup with senior Olivia Woods and juniors Anna Rorrer and Emma Stekelenburg, Woodridge fought back within five, but back-to-back layups by Izzy Rodriguez and Emily Stibley inflated the lead again to 39-28 with 4:09 left.

Woodridge wasn’t done.

Molly Hurst came off the Holy Name bench as Woodridge was throwing all kinds of pressure and calmly hit a pull-up jumper, but Bulldog guard Leah Mencer answered quickly with a driving layup to slice the lead to 41-35 with 1:08 left.

However, a missed 3-pointer with 41 seconds remaining, coupled with a layup by Rodriguez dashed any hopes of a furious comeback like Woodridge had in a recent win over Cloverleaf.

The loss led to an emotional locker room as seniors Woods, Layla Foster, and Bella Owen will be departing.

“I am so proud of this group of seniors and they are a class act,” pointed out Nauer. “Our success is a credit to their four years of hard work and improvement. This season, we really found an identity with our defense.”

“We have closed the gap in the league so much – we closed the gap on all of the teams – I am excited to have a normal off-season and get back to work next year behind the things we accomplished this season.”

Woods finished with 15 points, four rebounds and two thefts before fouling out.

Rorrer added eight points, three steals and two blocked shots and Mencer had seven points and dished out four assists.

Undersized small forward Johnetteliz Arenas was sensational for the Green Wave with 12 points, nine rebounds and three thefts.

The Bulldogs capped the regular season with a road win over Springfield (4-16, 4-10) by a final score of 49-34. It pushed the Bulldogs to finish 11-3 in the Metro Athletic Conference.

Woods and Izzy Best netted 10 points each while Rorrer had eight, Owen five, plus Foster, Stekelenburg and Mencer had four each.

Just the day before, erased an 18-point deficit in the fourth quarter and snagged a big comeback victory of 53-50 over Cloverleaf (13-9, 9-5). It took a wild 25-6 effort in the final quarter!

Woodridge forced 25 turnovers as Mencer had a strong floor game and led with 15 points, including a pair of 3-pointers.

Rorrer had 11 points, Woods 10, plus Owen and Best had seven each