By Chad Grant
MEDINA — Those who don’t learn from the past are doomed to repeat it.
The Cloverleaf girls basketball team learned its lessons Saturday and defeated Copley 53-51 in the Medina Division I Sectional finals.
The Colts (10-14) advance to play Wadsworth — an 88-16 winner over Akron Garfield — in Thursday’s district semifinals.
Cloverleaf matched up with the Indians (7-16) for the third time this season and went into the half in a familiar situation.
In each of the previous two games the score was close, but the Colts failed to finish and Copley earned wins — 53-48 on Jan. 5 and 65-45 on Feb. 6.
“We’ve been on the short end of some of these kind of games this year,” Cloverleaf coach John Carmigiano said. “With young kids on the floor, it’s bound to happen at times. I thought we kept it together enough with the kids in some of the huddles. It’s either win and move on or lose and go home.”
This time Cloverleaf was clinging to a 23-20 lead at intermission. It pulled away multiple times, only to have Copley come charging back.
The Colts were determined not to let it happen again.
“Coach brought it up and that was one of his pump-up speeches,” Cloverleaf forward Briana Burgos said. “We were winning and they came back and they wanted it more than we did at the time. We wanted it more this time.”
The Colt lead got as high as 48-38 with 3 minutes left before one last charge from the Indians led to the nail-biting finish.
Copley’s Myriah Hoffman (15 points, 3 3-pointers) buried what was initially thought to be a game-tying 3-pointer with 25 seconds left. Hoffman had her foot on the line and the margin was cut to 50-49.
Neither bench was aware of that call for several seconds and played assuming the game had been tied up.
“A lot of crazy things are happening in tournaments, and they always do,” Carmigiano said. “I actually thought it was a three. I didn’t even have time to look up at the scoreboard and see. I thought the game was tied at that point. It was a little bit confusing. I knew we needed a timeout.”
That’s when the gravity of what was going on really sank in for both teams.
Lauren Gokey (7 points, game-high 14 rebounds) was fouled at 16 seconds and buried two huge free throws to push the margin back out the three.
“I was definitely really, really nervous for those,” Gokey said. “But I am glad they went in.”
Copley’s ensuing possession put a driving and flailing Kaela Drake (12 points) on the foul line in a one-and-one.
Drake buried the first shot, but her attempt to bang the ball off the front of the rim on the second failed and swished through the net to cut the Colt lead to 52-51 with 4 seconds left.
Jessie Lindemeyer was fouled on the inbounds with the Colts in the double-bonus. She buried the first and brilliantly missed the second on purpose to force the Indians into a desperation mid-court bomb that failed.
Another big difference in this matchup was the play of Burgos. The 5-foot-11 forward poured in a game-high 19 as a starter.
“I don’t know what’s going on,” Burgos said of her increased output in the tournament. “I feel like there is less pressure in the tournament. I am not sure. I do better in the summer league, too. But that’s just me personally.”
The sophomore kicked off her run with a 12-point, nine-rebound performance in the opener against Strongsville.
Burgos, who banged her head hard on the floor late in the first half and left with a bag of ice on the back of her head, played a critical part in the Colts holding off hard-charging Copley with 13 second-half points, as did Gokey, who helped Cloverleaf to a 42-28 rebounding advantage.
“We emphasize going after offensive boards,” Carmigiano said. “In girls basketball, it’s the easiest points you can pick up. Just having the mindset that you are going to follow every shot from your teammate and be on that backside. When the shooting percentages are 30 percent or less, you know that you have a good chance that the balls going to be coming out. We talk about crashing (the boards) hard.”
Contact Chad Grant at firstname.lastname@example.org.