By KEVIN WEAKS
Union City is back where it expected to be. The goal now is go where it’s never been before.
The Lady Tornadoes stormed out of the gate to take a commanding lead and then eased over some speed bumps on the way to a 67-34 win over Big Sandy in the opening round of the Region 7A Tournament Thursday night at the UC gym.
Having beaten the Lady Red Devils in the regional quarterfinals for the second consecutive year, UC will now try to do something no other girls’ team in school history has done by winning in the regional semifinals and earning a berth in the sectional round.
The Lady Twisters will take their game back to Trenton, where they had a nice runner-up effort in the District 14A Tournament last week, to play District 13A champion and ninth-ranked Dresden 7:30 p.m. Saturday. Lake County will play Bradford in the other semifinal game.
“We won’t talk about substate,” UC head coach Eddie Suiter said. “It’s just beat whoever your next opponent is, and that’s Dresden. It should be a good game at a neutral site. Four good teams are playing in the regional semis, and we’re just proud to be one of them.”
Union City and Dresden split their regular season meetings, the Lady Lions taking a 50-30 decision on Nov. 21 and UC responding with a 52-39 triumph on Feb. 9.
“At tournament time, the teams that win are the teams that finish their layups and hit their free throws,” Suiter said. “We’ve talked about that for about a week now. It’s not going to be the team that hits the halfcourt shot or makes some dipsy-doo move that draws three defenders for a behind-the-back pass. That’s not what we’re looking for, and that’s not the team that’s going to win. The team that’s going to win is the team that hits layups, defends layups and hits free throws.”
Union City certainly began the next round of the postseason looking like that team Suiter described.
Getting the ball inside early while forcing the Lady Red Devils into several turnovers with a quick pace, UC jumped out to a 23-3 lead by the 6:41 mark of the second period.
Amber Fair scored the game’s first six points on two close-range shots and two free throws and later knocked down a 3-pointer.
Fair went on to lead all players with 18 points, while Tory Reedy, who assisted on Fair’s triple and hit one of her own in the opening period, finished with 17.
“Our game plan coming in was get the ball inside, especially against their back line,” Suiter said. “And, we did early. Somewhere in there Amber picked up some foul trouble, and we didn’t do as good a job getting inside. We just wanted to cram it in and get to the free throw line. But, once we did get there, we didn’t shoot free throws very well.”
UC finished 15-of-26 at the line, including just 4-of-9 in the final quarter.
By then, though, it did not matter, although Big Sandy certainly made some noise in the third period.
The Lady Twisters scored the last eight points of the second period, including another Reedy triple, for a 31-8 halftime advantage.
The Lady Devils climbed back to within 13 points at 41-28 with 2:24 to play in the third as Megan Dilda, Marissa Fletcher, Hannah Caruthers and Luz Mena all knocked down 3-point shots.
“I thought those were energy plays,” Suiter said of Big Sandy’s 3-point touch. “The threes they hit were off energized plays. They got after loose balls and on the offensive glass pretty good.”
UC finished the period with a flurry, though, as Jackie Hudson scored on the low post with three seconds to play and then stole the inbounds pass for another basket as time expired. The Lady Tornadoes had the final 10 points of the third for a 51-28 lead.
“It was two big plays,” Suiter said of Hudson. “We wanted to get the ball inside to her a lot more because she’s a great playmaker there. We thought their back line was susceptible. We wanted to get them to stand up straight and then go around them. It was exactly what we’d talked about in practice. Jackie was able to get her defender to stand straight up and then go around her for a little four or five footer. And, then credit her hustle to give us a big lift by being aware to get the steal on the inbounds pass and then put the ball in the hole really quick.”
Hudson ended the game as UC’s third player in double figures with 14, while Mena had 12 and Fletcher 10 for Big Sandy, which ends its season at 18-12.
Published in The Messenger 2.24.12