ONTARIO — As the final minute ticked off the clock the Bellevue student section started a chant that tugged at the heart strings, “Thank you seniors.”
As the buzzer sounded the Lady Red players were teary eyed, especially the seniors to see their Lady Red careers come to an end.
The six Lady Red seniors, Makala Daniel, Janelle Watson, Jessica Zeitz, Jake Turner, Whitney Schalk and Jasmine Hill gathered together, smeared make-up, sweaty and teary eyed said the one thing they wanted their teammates to remember was, “They better hold the tradition,” said Schalk.
“Especially the juniors, make sure that every single moment counts because in the blink of an eye it’s going to be over, just like right now,” said Turner.
The seniors also said that their teammates better remember to fight through everything together, “They have to fight through all the adversity they will face,” said Schalk. “I hope they have learned from us that you have to stick together and talk it out. Don’t let coach or anybody get in your head. An fight through it together as a team.”
Even though it was their last game as Lady Red all six seniors agreed they wouldn’t change one thing and they were proud of themselves for how hard they fought against an impressive Rogers team.
“I wouldn’t change it for the world,” said Zeitz.
“Rogers is one of the best teams anyone around here is going to see and we did the best that we possibly could,” said Turner.
“We had a great season and a great four years together and it’s sad to see it come to an end and I’m proud of what we did,” said Daniel.
The Lady Red finished their 2013-14 season with a 22-5 record. On Friday evening they played their final game of the season as they saw a familiar opponent in Toledo Rogers (24-4) in the Division II Regional Finals.
The Lady Red couldn’t’ hold on and punch their ticket to Columbus as they fell, 52-40.
Trouble for the Lady Red started early as they quickly got into an 8-0 hole. In the first quarter the Lady Red only scored one three-point bucket off the hands of junior Carly Santoro to trail Rogers, 8-3 at the end of the first quarter.
The problems continued as they Lady Red were unable to get any points in the paint due to the size of the Rogers defenders.
“Our size differential hurt us, our girls have battled, they are under sized posts and their agile but when your battling three and four girls that are six foot two, sometimes you just have to tip your hat to them and say you got beat by a better team,” said Lady Red head coach Ryan Orshoski.
At halftime the Lady Red were trailed Rogers, 27-15 but weren’t going to go down without a fight and tried to make a run in the third quarter. Daniel started the Lady Red off with a basket from down low, but a quick basket by Rogers Sasha Dailey kept Rogers ahead, 29-17.
Rogers defense held the Lady Red to only five two points baskets, the lowest of the season for the Lady Red. An something that Rogers head coach Lamar Smith was focused on was putting pressure on the Lady Red and forcing them into situations they didn’t want to be in.
“It put pressure on them because they were losing, like I said the goal was to win, this is tournament time,” said coach Smith. “I knew once we went up 8-0 I knew that we had them were they had to start playing. They couldn’t just work the ball around, the clock was on our side and our girls knew what to do. We ran off some clock and executed our offense. “
The pressure certainly got the Lady Red as they were only 12 of 39 from the field and 7 of 21 from three point range.
“The pressure got to us, I thought we made some uncharacteristic errors, we dribbled into traffic and some no calls went their way and when you turn the ball over in a live ball situation that is when Rogers is at their best,” said coach Orshoski.
At the end of the third quarter the Lady Red trailed Rogers by 12, 37-25. In the final eight minutes of the game, the crowd on both sides made it difficult to hear anything.
A quick basket by Rogers Marquella Williams, was answered by Santoro with a three-point jumper that brought the Bellevue crowd to their feet, with 6:35 left the Lady Red were closing the gap, 39-28.
For the next two minutes Rogers played keep away with the ball eating time off the clock forcing the Lady Red to foul. The Lady Red finally got the ball back with 4:06 left as Santoro went to the free-throw line for two, she made the first and missed the second, 43-29.
Rogers had an answer for the Lady Red’s come back attempt in Keasja Peace, who drove to the basket, made the shot and was fouled by Lady Red freshman Jenna Strayer. At the line for the bonus shot Peace hit nothing but net, putting Rogers up, 45-29 with 3:54 left.
With less than a minute left in the game the Lady Red’s Strayer hit two more three-point shots as the buzzer sounded. The scoreboard read, Rogers 52 Lady Red 40.
The future for the Lady Red basketball team is bright as they return three starters, Santoro, Strayer and Shelby Stamm. But replacing the six seniors he is losing will be difficult, something coach Orshoski knows all to well.
“We’ll return three girls that have started a lot of games, Carly, Jenna and Shelby. This experience is definitely going to help them,” he said. “We graduate six seniors that meant a whole lot to this program, that took us to another level. They will be missed.”
The six Lady Red seniors will always remember the final minutes of their final game at Ontario High School, because of their peers chanting, “Thank you seniors.”
Amber Hatten can be reached at (419) 483-4190 ext. 214. Follow us on Twitter @BellevueGazette.