MEDINA — Gabrielle Bulic and Courtney Laudato defined senior leadership on Thursday night.
Bulic amassed 22 points, 20 rebounds and nine blocked shots, while Laudato collected 11 points, 11 rebounds and eight steals, powering Brunswick’s girls basketball team to a 59-36 win over Akron Firestone in the Medina Division I Sectional semifinals.
The second-seeded Blue Devils (17-6) will face Highland in the district semifinals on Feb. 28, while the Akron City Series playoff champion Falcons finished 16-8.
“It was really intense on the court, but really fun because they (trash) talked to us a lot — and we were able to shut them up,” said 6-foot-5 center Bulic, who also had a game-high five assists. “Courtney and I knew we had to step up tonight, which we did.
“The best part, though, was the way our new people and rotations fit in. Everyone gave it their all and helped us win this game.”
Sophomore point guard Paige Salisbury added 11 points and four assists — going 5-for-5 from the field despite a violent case of the stomach flu — and junior forward Monica Wasson had eight points for Brunswick, which qualified for districts for the fourth year in a row.
It also marked the second straight season the Blue Devils have eliminated Firestone, which led to myriad collisions and body blocks all night and some very chippy moments as the clock wound down.
In an 18-second span in the fourth, Falcons guard Imani Scott (11 points, 2-for-15 on 3-pointers) picked up a technical and sophomore forward Darian Carter was flagged for an intentional foul, allowing Brunswick to score six points and take its biggest lead at 51-26 on a Wasson drive.
“I think we got in their heads toward the end of the night,” said shooting guard and four-year letterwinner Laudato, who set career highs in boards and thefts. “This was a big game for all of us, and I’m really proud of how well all of our girls kept their composure.
“As seniors, Gabbie and I know any game could be our last — and I know we’re not ready to be done yet.”
Remarkably, Bulic also rung up a 22-20-9 stat line on Feb. 29, 2012, when the Blue Devils eliminated Firestone in the Medina District semifinals, 59-57 in overtime. Her two 20-20 games against the Falcons are the only such performances by a Brunswick player since All-Ohio center Kelly Fergus in 1992.
In the rematch, Bulic held Firestone center Mishae Roper scoreless, while Laudato and Salisbury forced Falcons starting guards Scott and Brea Forney into a combined 5-for-35 game from the floor.
Sophomore guard Olivia Gailey also chipped in six points for Brunswick, which won despite making a season-high 29 turnovers.
“Obviously, we really needed this win to come together as a team after everything that’s happened,” said Blue Devils coach Halle Lengal, whose squad lost the Northeast Ohio Conference River Division title on the final day of the regular season and lost starting small forward Brianna Moss for a school rules violation.
“Give credit for the way we played tonight to the leadership that Gabbie and Court provided. They hate to lose, and their drive and desire trickles down to everyone else in the program. Obviously, we couldn’t have won without them playing as well as they did.”
Contact Brian Dulik at firstname.lastname@example.org.