TOLEDO – When it looked like the season might be slipping away, the Fremont Ross girls basketball team showed it wasn’t ready for the year to end just yet.
But the Findlay Trojans had an answer. Findlay halted the momentum Ross gained in the latter stages of the third quarter and pounded the Lady Giants in the post to pull away in the fourth quarter and ended Ross season, 62-44, in the sectional tournament semifinal Wednesday night.
“Findlay hit a lot of baskets we didn’t,” Ross coach Juan Vela. “Even though we tried to make a run, we fell short, but that’s why we play sports: For teaching moments. We had a lot of positives and a lot of negatives during the season and hopefully they learned something from it they can take past high school.”
Ross and Findlay traded 3-pointers in a well-played, back-and-forth first quarter after which Findlay led 19-16. But the offense dried up in the second quarter for Ross as the Lady Giants were held without a field goal and entered halftime trailing 27-18.
Findlay they scored the first five points of the third quarter to open up a 12-point lead and looked on the verge of breaking the game open.
That’s when Jasannah Sabiers scored on a lay-in, Ross’ first basket in nearly 12 minutes. Olivia Baptista followed with a jumper then Mikeaya McLaurin scored after stealing the ball on defense.
The deficit still at 10 points, Marissa Overmyer scored on a rebound put-back and soon after grabbed another offensive rebounds and fed it to Brooklyn Baptista for a mid-range jumper. A minute later, Rachel Gore drained a 3-pointer and Brooklyn Baptista and Gore both scored in the final 35 seconds of the period to cap a 15-6 run and bring Ross back to within four points, 40-36, entering the fourth quarter.
“We were getting to the basket, finding open shooters who were knocking shots down,” Vela said. “I felt (Findlay’s) offense kind of got stale and they didn’t know what to do. We rebounded the ball and we got stops, went the other way in transition. We were more active when we had that run going.”
But as the game turned to the fourth quarter, so too turned the flow of the game. As Findlay righted itself on offense, Ross fell out of rhythm. The Lady Giants pressured the Trojans under the basket with several scoring opportunities that refused to fall through the hoop. Even after Olivia Baptista made a nice steal and set up a teammate under the basket, the shot still missed the mark. Findlay grabbed the rebound and converted on its first shot in its end, making a nice back-door play from Jocellen Puchta to a wide-open Kaylee Brodine. Though Findlay’s lead was only eight at that time, Ross never regained the momentum which had distinctly shifted into the Trojans’ favor.
“We had four guards out there, and I wanted four guards, to try to push the ball and try to get easy shots, and they took advantage of our fourth guard in the post,” Vela said. “I thought (Brianna Nichols, 11 points) had some key baskets (Nichols and Chloe Holliday, 17 points) both had key baskets. They hadn’t shown much throughout the season, but they showed up tonight.”
The Lady Giants conclude the season with a 10-13 record. Though the season went through a rough second half, Ross lost 10 of its last 12 games, Vela was proud of how his team never got down on itself.
“They stayed together,” he said. “They had a rough season, as far as wins and losses, but they never turned on each other, they never pointed fingers. They continued coming to practice to try to figure things out and try to get better. That’s one thing I’ll remember for this group.”
Brooklyn Baptista led Ross with 15 points and was the only underclassman to score as every other full-time varsity player suiting up Wednesday played the final game of their career. The program will say good-bye to seniors Olivia Baptista (nine points), Gore (10 points), Sabiers (four), Overmyer (three) and McLaurin (three), along with Kennedy Bohannan and Molly Mies.
“A lot of them, last season, were with us for the tournament run when we beat Springfield and Whitmer,” Vela said. “Beating Perkins at home earlier this year was a big win for us, we had a lot of good moments and we played good, team-basketball, it wasn’t a one-man show like you see in a lot of high school basketball. They’re just a very tight-knit group, they play well together, share the ball and communicated both in the locker room and in practice.”
With so many seniors on the roster, the Lady Giants will feature a lot of new faces next year, but one expected constant will be Brooklyn Baptista who, as a freshman and sophomore, has averaged 10.2 points per game in her 45 career games.
“Brooklyn is obviously going to be our big player next year with varsity experience and everybody else is going to be young,” Vela said. “Hopefully she can get better and lead a very young team. There will be new challenges, new things to figure out and that’s why we play the game.”
Findlay 62, Fremont Ross 44
FR| 16—2—18—8 44
Katie Thomas 9, Kaylee Brodine 10, Jocellen Puchta, 13, Chloe Holliday 17, Brienna Nichols 11, Aubrey Hucke 2.
FREMONT ROSS (44)
Brooklyn Baptista 15, Olivia Baptista 9, Rachel Gore 10, Jasannah Sabiers 4, Marissa Overmyer 3, Mikeaya McLaurin 3.