COLUMBIANA-The Columbiana girls basketball team rolled into postseason play last season with its eye set squarely on a district title, only to be upset by Lisbon in the semifinals. One year later, it's only fitting that the Clippers will get a chance to even the score.
Top-seeded Columbiana (22-2) breezed through 11th-seeded Youngstown Christian, 62-39, in a Division IV sectional final Saturday at Columbiana High School to earn a district semifinal matchup with the ninth-seeded Blue Devils. The two teams will hook up at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Mineral Ridge High School.
"Going into the tournament last year we didn't think we were going to be beaten," Columbiana senior Bri Gingher said. "We were thinking ahead to playing in the district championship and Lisbon came ready to beat us. "This year we know that at any moment it can all end. We are a lot more focused."
After a sluggish effort in their sectional opener against McDonald, the Clippers certainly came out more focused against the Eagles.
Columbiana wasted no time taking control with its defense, stealing the ball nine times in the first quarter and creating several transition opportunities for the offense. Baylie Mook led the way with 18 points, five assists and six steals. Emily Witmer chipped in 13 points and five steals, while Aleah Whitacre and Lauren Schlueter each grabbed seven rebounds.
"We were a lot more relaxed and pumped up tonight than against McDonald," Witmer said. "If we aren't loose we don't play to our full potential.
"We talked about having fun in the locker room tonight and I think our kids had a lot of fun out there," Columbiana coach Ron Moschella said. "they were focused from the start and played hard."
Though the Clippers had a commanding 37-16 edge at halftime Youngstown Christian (7-16) played hard until the end, outscoring the Clipper in the third quarter Senior Kayla Rios led the Eagles with 16 points and eight rebounds.
"I thought we defended their half-court offense very well," Youngstown Christian head coach Bill Hoelzel said. "We just didn't take care of the basketball and they got some opportunities off of turnovers."
With sectionals behind them, the Clippers are now focused on the district title that painfully eluded them last year. Moschella feels his squad-having already captured the Inter-Tri County League lower tier title-is more battle-tested this time around.
"Our kids understand what the tournament is all about now," Moschella said. "I don't think that was the case last year. I have a lot of confidence in them right now. If they play hard they will win."
It was the last home game for Gingher, Columbiana's only senior. The Clippers won 14 total games her first two seasons and 44 the last two seasons under Moschella.
"We didn't win too many games at first and then once Coach Moschella came, we pretty much learned how to play basketball," Gingher said. "I've never been happier playing basketball.
"Bri is not the most gifted player, but she play with her heart and gives you everything she has," Moschella said. "I would take 20 players like her."
Mook, Witmer and Gingher all played in the 52-40 loss to the Blue Devils last year, with Mook scoring seven points, Witmer four and Gingher two. The teams did not meet in the regular season.
YOUNGSTOWN CHRISTIAN: 6-10-12-11-39
YOUNGSTOWN CHRISTIAN SCORING: Daisjha Parks 4-0-8, Arlivian Cheirs 1-1-3, Destinee Snyder 4-0-8, Daria Shavers 1-3-6, Kayla Rios 6-3-16, Iliana Suarez 0-0-0, India McDowell 0-0-0, Paris Yanno 0-0-0, Lisa Galias 0-0-0, Natalia Mahdee 0-0-0, Maysia Finkley 0-0-0, TEAM TOTALS: 15, 7-15: 39.
COLUMBIANA SCORING: Baylie Mook 6-5-18, Lauren Schlueter 0-2-2, Aleah Whitacre 5-1-11, Emily Witmer 4-4-13, Mollie Donnelly 1-0-3, Brynn Pennell 1-2-4, Haley Tohm 2-0-4, Alexa Tringhese 0-0-0, Elise Hammond 1-0-2, Mariah Rovnak 0-0-0, Taylor Simms 0-0-0, Melissa Stockman 0-0-0, Megan Goehring 0-0-0, Abby Fleeson 0-0-0. TEAM TOTALS: 22, 14-21: 62.
Three-point goals: Youngstown Christian 2 (Shavers, Rios), Columbiana 4 (Mook, Gingher, Witmer, Donnelly).